The hullabaloo of the last few days hasn't died down yet. Numerous videos, multiple camera angles, biased and unbiased opinions on social media, grim press conferences and vehement outrage against David Warner and Steven Smith have headlined the week which saw Australia's captain and vice-captain, apart from their rookie scapegoat, Cameron Bancroft, being banned from international cricket for a while.
While the ban from Cricket Australia (CA) could be foreseen after the events came to broad daylight, courtesy some sharp camera work by the broadcasters, the Indian Premier League (IPL) ban for the (in)famous Aussie “leadership group” came as a bit of a surprise.
While the duo will spend the summer on their couch watching their lesser-talented colleagues make big bucks in India, the respective franchises will have large voids to fill. Both Smith and Warner were skippers of their respective franchises (Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad) and will now need to be replaced as players, with Ajinkya Rahane and Kane Williamson being named skipper of Rajasthan and Hyderabad respectively.
While the auction was a massive attraction, quite a few big names have slipped between fingers and these franchises would be keen to find the right replacements for the Aussie duo. Here we explore a few options they could look into.
Replacements for Steven Smith
Remember the reverse scoop for six off Chris Morris in the World T20 2016?
That one shot alone would tell enough stories about Joe Root the T20 player. Often classified as an old school Test batsman, Root’s prowess as a boundary hitter is often underrated. He is a proclaimed accumulator of runs but Root’s ability to keep the scorecard constantly ticking has an uncanny resemblance to that of Steven Smith.
Smith, for all the noise surrounding him, isn't the most successful of T20 players despite his odd technique and flamboyant batting style. In 30 T20Is, Smith has 431 runs at an unimpressive average of 21.55 and a strike rate of 122.44, which pales significantly when compared to Root's average of 39.10 and strike rate of 128.76.
Root surprisingly went unpicked at the auctions but Smith's ban gives him another chance to come into reckoning. That he has all the recommended shots of a T20 batsman in his repertoire augers well for Root but what makes him the apt replacement for Smith is his ability to play the sheet anchor role from the middle-order. Rajasthan really needn't look elsewhere for a better like-for-like replacement.
Despite not being in the same vein as Root, Moises Henriques packs quite a punch in this format of the game. He isn't the most common name in the Australian limited-overs sides, but has a pretty good IPL record, including a fabulous season in 2016 when his franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) went on to win the title.
At Sunrisers, he has often been overshadowed by the presence of David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson in the top four. In limited opportunities up the order, Henriques showcased a penchant for scoring big and quick.
This makes him an ideal replacement for Smith at Rajasthan Royals. At No 3, coming behind D’Arcy Short (or Rahul Tripathi) and Ajinkya Rahane, Henriques can act as a bridge between the power-packed lower middle-order comprising Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes and a relatively calmer top order.
Add in his abilities with the ball and Rajasthan have a handy fifth or sixth bowler in conditions that would suit his style of bowling. His familiarity with Indian conditions could also make him a catchy option.
Replacements for David Warner
When you have the overpowering presence of someone like Dhawan at the top, it makes sense to bring in a more mature, composed batsman to partner him. Amla, in every way, is an apt companion for Dhawan more than a like-for-like replacement for Warner.
Unlike common perception, the South African opener is a fabulous T20 player and set the IPL alight last year with two hundreds and as many half-centuries, scoring more than 400 runs at an average of 60.00. Yet, bizarrely, he found no takers at the auction this year.
Warner's absence gives SRH an option to bring Amla into the mix. The South African’s spectacular strike rate of 145.83 last season is even better than that of Warner! You did not see that coming, did you? What are Sunrisers even waiting for?
The adrenaline behind Islamabad United’s title win at the Pakistan Super League this year, Australian-turned-Kiwi opening batsman Luke Ronchi is an ideal replacement candidate for Warner. At 37, age may not be on his side but if Sunrisers want to go all hammer and tongs in the powerplay, there really is no better replacement than Ronchi.
He topped the PSL run charts this season with 435 runs at a whopping strike rate of 182.00 and has an impressive overall T20 career strike rate in excess of 150. Wriddhiman Saha is Sunrisers’ assigned gloveman at the moment but given his wavering form, Ronchi could also double up as a wicket-keeping option instead of the Indian Test keeper.
Ronchi was severe against the seamers in the PSL, scoring at a mind-blowing 12.56 runs per over according to CricViz. As per them, among batsmen with minimum of 100 balls faced, Ronchi’s run rate of 11.43 in the powerplay also tops the chart.
Luke Ronchi's run-rate in the Powerplay overs tonight was 14.52, not too dissimilar from the 14.75 he got in the previous game. These two are his highest Powerplay run-rates this season.#PSL2018 #IUvPZ
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) March 25, 2018
What might peg Ronchi back is his relatively lower success rate against spinners. But this is true for Warner as well and that shouldn't be a concern for Hyderabad if they need somebody who can single-handedly win matches from the top of the order.
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Warner led the Sunrisers to the IPL title in 2016 and played at the club last year under New Zealander Kane Williamson.
Vivo is likely to pull out as the IPL's title sponsor for this year and if relations between the two countries improve, BCCI may look at inking a fresh three-year deal with the company from 2021 to 2023 on revised terms.
The IPL is scheduled to start in the UAE on 19 September and although the BCCI is awaiting approval from the central government, in a letter to Ganguly, Verma pointed out why it must be held in India.