Steven Smith suggested that he would be willing to miss the early part of the Australian domestic season to take part in the IPL should this year’s T20 World Cup be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and leave room for a delayed edition of the world’s most lucrative domestic T20 event.
Contracted to Rajasthan Royals, where he was named captain for the 2020 tournament, Smith said that while international cricket took priority for him, he could see the sense in travelling to play in the IPL in October and November, should the event be postponed due to the complexities of hosting a global event this year. In a letter to the ICC revealed last week, Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings requested this year’s event be moved to 2021, with that year’s event, scheduled to be hosted by India, moved to 2022.
Returning to training with his New South Wales squad members in Sydney on Monday, Smith said the Australian team would be led by expert and government advice about their own resumption of play, with CA currently mulling over a request from the ECB to tour England in September for a limited-overs series originally slated for July.
“I think when you’re playing for your country at a World Cup, that’s the pinnacle for one-day or T20 cricket, so of course I’d prefer to play in that,” Smith said. “But if that doesn’t happen and the IPL’s there, and they postpone it, then so be it. IPL’s also a terrific tournament as a domestic tournament. So that’s out of everyone’s control at the moment, players are just doing what we’re told and going where we need to go and playing whatever’s on at that stage.
“I guess there’ll be some more news about it soon, probably some decisions to be made soon, so I’m sure we’ll all find out and know where we’re going to be. I personally haven’t really thought about it, I think it’d just be going off the advice of the professionals and the governments and essentially doing what we’re told. If that happens then great, if not then there’s just so much going on in the world right now that cricket kind of seems a little bit irrelevant. So we’ll get back when we’re told to and until then it is sit tight, get fit and strong and freshen up mentally.”
In terms of the shape of cricket when it does resume in a fundamentally changed universe, Smith said that he agreed new regulations restricting the use of saliva to polish the ball would affect the contest between batsmen and bowlers, noting too that his own habit of spitting on his hands for a bit of extra grip in the field virtually every ball would have to change.
“I’ve always been one to want a fair contest between bat and ball, so if that’s taken away, even as a batter I don’t think that’s great,” Smith said. “Whether they can find other ways with certain things, it’ll be hard. I actually spit on my hands most balls and that’s how I get grip and stuff. So that might take some adjusting to certain things like that, but that’s something for the ICC to figure out what they want to do going forward and different regulations. We’ll see how it all lands, everything is up in the air at the moment, but we’ll see where everything goes.”
State squads have returned to training amidst a raft of cost-cutting at CA and at every state association other than Smith’s NSW, and he said that a period of adjustment would be required for players if they found themselves tended to by a reduced gaggle of support staff. Certainly, Smith’s own habit of needing to face hundreds of extra throwdowns in order to find his ideal rhythm before starting a Test series may need to change.
“I think if that’s the case it’ll be about guys being able to help each other out as well, particularly senior players being able to take a bit of time off your own game and help someone else out at training or something like that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, there’s still a fair while probably until we get back out there playing again and plenty of decisions that the hierarchy needs to make and things like that. We’ll just wait and see and play it by ear at the moment.
“They [support staff] all have a role to play, particularly as the game’s evolved and got more professional, we’ve got people in different areas of expertise to help the team prepare and get ready to play. If that happens it’ll take some adjusting and guys might have to throw some balls to one of the other batters or help out the bowlers in certain ways and different things. It’ll take a bit of adjusting, but there’s still a while until we’re back out there and plenty of decisions to be made.”
One of those decisions will be around scheduling for the World Test Championship currently in limbo. Australia were originally scheduled to be playing a series in Bangladesh this month. With a victory over the hosts in that series, they would have been able to vault India and move into top spot on the table ahead of series against India at home and South Africa away prior to the final, originally set down for Lord’s in June 2021.
Smith said that he wanted to see the championship retained, but as the World Cup and IPL dilemma shows, space is growing more limited by the day. “It’d be ideal if we can keep that going,” Smith said. “It’s the first one we’ve had and we’re all working towards hopefully playing at Lord’s in mid-June , we were all working towards that, so it’d be good if we could carry on with that, but I don’t know, everything is sort of up in the air at the moment with everything going on around the world. So we’ll wait and see where everything lands.”