As he himself heads a rather new T20 league, it’s pertinent to ask him if the emergence of multiple T20 leagues around the world, which is causing the players to quit international cricket and take up contracts which allow them to be playing fulltime in these leagues, is a healthy trend. There have been reports that the ICC is contemplating limiting the number of foreign players in the XI to four in these leagues.
“Look, it doesn’t really affect the IPL or SA20. We are structured. Our teams are investing in local talent. I think it’s the leagues that are kind of outside those main member bodies that are looking to take up 9,10, 11 players in a playing XI that, I guess, are challenging the marketplace and in many ways challenging the ICC, more than maybe bilateral cricket. For us at SA20, it was important to have a seat at the table and to develop a product that keeps South African cricket strong, and I think we’ve done that,” Smith explains.
Post India’s defeat to Australia in the World Test Championship final, there has been a lot of talk about easing out India’s senior batsmen, whose averages have been declining over the years. Smith feels one game is not enough evidence to judge world-class players.
“Whenever there’s a failure, it’s always the senior players that take the most heat. That’s always been a natural thing, if you go back (in years). I guess that’s up for the Indian selectors to decide in terms of when they start to integrate (youth). If you take out three, four or five of your highest-performing players for a long period of time, all that experience…talent can’t just replace that overnight. There needs to be a slow integration and a plan for these things. Those are also the players that got you to the WTC final. They’ve performed around the world for a consistent period of time to get India to the final. So, based on one game, to criticize them and throw them out, it’s very tough,” he feels.
Smith recommends that much of the pressure on Indian captain Rohit Sharma would be off once he gets a few runs under his belt.
“One of the biggest challenges of a captain is your own personal performance. The pressure of a leader never goes away. Rohit probably needs to just refresh. His own form hasn’t been probably at a level consistently. We look at the IPL over a number of years now and obviously the WTC final…he is having a bit of a rough patch and often that personal performance can just settle things down a little bit. No one is criticizing his captaincy or leadership style. It’s just obviously on the personal performance side, if he can get some really good scores behind him, it takes a lot of that pressure away,” analyses Smith.
He has sympathy for his former rival Rahul Dravid, who is now facing the heat as India coach, and suggests that he be given time to “rebuild India.”
“When you get involved in a leadership role in Indian cricket, the expectation is something that you are going to have to come to terms with. There’s a huge quality of players. India can put two or three teams together. The biggest challenge in India for a leader is balancing those squads, balancing your tour schedules, the different formats, and those are some of the biggest decisions that are coming ahead of Rahul and his selection team. What do those squads look like, how do they move those teams forward. He’s a quality man and a quality performer. He’s shown it right through as a coach. So, you’ve got to give him a fair opportunity now to kind of rebuild India,” recommends Smith.
Rookie player rule in SAT20 offers exposure to talented youngsters
Meanwhile, Talking about SA20’s new rule which requires teams to sign a rookie player in each squad, Smith said, “Last year we had an uncapped player (rule for each franchise). This year, we felt the opportunity was there for us to introduce a kind of a new young player into the system and an opportunity to expose them to the SA20. We’ve seen the benefit of that, in particular at the IPL (in terms of) the introduction, the growth of talent. SA T20 will always be an aspirational league.”