New Delhi: Steve Smith on Thursday said there isno bad blood between him and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was replaced by the Australian as skipper of the Pune Supergiants for the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League.
“There are no issues between MS Dhoni and me. We have shared some messages, MS is very supportive and it doesn’t change my professional relationship with him or anyone else,” Smith said.
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The prolific batsman was in the capital along with India’s Ajinkya Rahane and the season’s biggest signing, Ben Stokes, to unveil the Pune Supergiants’ jersey for IPL 2017 and “formally welcome Stokes into the RPS family”.
The change in captaincy appeared to have been prompted by Pune’s ordinary outing last year when they finished seventh in the points table after winning just five of their 14 matches. Also present on the occasion was Sanjiv Goenka, chairman, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. Looking ahead to the IPL after a gruelling Test series, Smith said, “It will be great to have so many great leaders from different countries, it’s a big plus and not a hindrance.”
But he would not like to clutter his mind with too many ideas. “I have plenty of guys to talk to, but I will not seek too many opinions. Seeking too many opinions can cloud your own judgement. I want to try and stay as clear as possible. But yes, if someone sees something and feels the need to point it out to me, they are more than welcome,” Smith said.
When asked to speak on Dhoni’s removal from captaincy and if that would be a deterrent, Goenka sought to clear the air. “MS is joining us on April 3 in Pune. The team has been in constant touch with him and it is very amicable. A lot has been discussed about captaincy but I can say that Mahi has got one of the sharpest brains. I have worked with him before and I am his biggest fan.
“There is complete togetherness, complete unity in the team. I see a very good bonhomie.” On Dhoni, Rahane said, “Whether he is captain or not a player like Dhoni bhai is always inspiration and we get to learn a lot.”
Asked about the reason behind appointing Smith as skipper, team owner Goenka said, “When you appoint a captain you do with full trust and confidence. I have admired the way Steve has led Australia over the last few months.” Elaborating on his new role in the team, Stokes said, “I am glad to be roped in by Pune team at the auction. I am hopeful to live up to the high expectation from fans in Pune as well as India. Playing for Rising Pune Supergiants is definitely going to be a high point of my career.
“This is a chance which I will work towards my team’s advantage with stalwarts like MS Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Ravichandran Ashwin and Steve Smith, to learn and enjoy the games at the same time.”
Rahane and the rest felt the team is well balanced this time around. “I am quite in sync with the team structure as this will be my second year with Rising Pune Supergiants. Our team is well balanced with a good mix of talent from both national and international players.
“Ben Stokes is one of the most talented all-rounders in the world and we hope to get good support from him. Imran Tahir’s inclusion is definitely going to strengthen our bowling department and will lend variety to the team.”
On leading the side, Smith exuded exuberance. “I am looking forward to my new responsibility with much integrity and fervor. My experience of playing in India has been wonderful so far. This year we also have a new member Ben Stokes with us who will balance experience and skill in right dose.
“High and orderly performance with good bowling, fielding and batting will be the benchmark for judging the team. We hope to make Pune proud with good cricket.” Rising Pune Supergiants also announced Motorola as the team sponsor for the upcoming league.