World Cup chances up in the air but Smith makes Major call on T20 future, Green dumped despite huge IPL deal


Test great Steve Smith is to play for Washington Freedom in the second season of Major League Cricket as the Australian influence in the American T20 competition gathers pace.

The 34-year-old Smith will link up with another batting great, coach Ricky Ponting, in the capital-based franchise after the T20 World Cup in the US, where he still hopes to represent Australia again.

It’s a signing which was widely expected as Smith was named brand ambassador to Washington Freedom last year, while his state team, NSW, have a high-performance partnership with the club.

In a video post on X on Thursday, Smith said: “I’m super excited about joining the Washington Freedom … I can’t wait to meet all of my new teammates and play in front of some incredible crowds in America.

“I’m also really looking forward to working with Ricky Ponting again and his amazing staff. Can’t wait for the season. Come on the Freedom!”

Excited to see you in Freedom colors, mate! ????

See you soon, Smudge! ????#WashingtonFreedom #MLC2024 #SteveSmith

— Washington Freedom (@WSHFreedom) April 11, 2024

In February when he was named Washington coach, Ponting had made it clear he hoped to woo top Australian names into the US adventure, noting: “With the relationships I’ve had with some of these guys, hopefully those relationships and the right amount of money is enough to bring them to the Freedom.

“There’s huge potential, huge growth possibilities in the US, even with the IPL ownership model the way it is at the moment, it’s got potential to become huge and I want to be a part of that journey along the way.”

Washington finished third in the inaugural season of the six-team tournament last year, with the follow-up edition beginning on July 4 after the conclusion to the World Cup in the US and Caribbean. 

Smith has only played four T20 internationals since the start of 2023, and wasn’t wanted in the Indian Premier League auction in December, so he’s been short of short-format action.

Smith, who owns an apartment in New York, has talked of the prospect of playing in the US as “cool”.

Talking of his prospects of making the World Cup squad, he told AAP recently: “I think they’re pretty settled up top – to be honest – with [Travis] Head, [David] Warner and [Mitchell] Marsh in the top three.

“I’m not really sure what [selectors] want to do. I’m not really too fussed either way. If I’m there, I’m there; if I’m not, I’m not.”

But his signing caps an increasingly strong-looking Australian involvement in the tournament.

Adam Zampa and Spencer Johnson will be at the Los Angeles Knight Riders, while Tim David will play for MI New York, the Mumbai Indians’-owned team, with more Australian stars still expected to be snapped up.

Green benched by IPL franchise

Big-money signing Cameron Green has been dropped to the bench and Glenn Maxwell suffered a quite wretched outing as Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s two Australian star allrounders had a day to forget in the IPL.

Three-million dollar man Green, who’s not really hit his straps with either bat or ball since his move from Mumbai Indians to RCB, endured the indignity of being axed for the big match against his old team on Thursday.

Then he had to watch his national teammate Maxwell continue his own miserable spell with bat, ball and in the field as RCB crashed to a humbling seven-wicket defeat that leaves them ninth of the 10 teams in the IPL table. 

Maxwell is considered almost undroppable by RCB for his ability to conjure up match-winning knocks alongside his spinning wiles, but he will be testing his team’s patience after a calamitous day when he suffered his third duck of the season, got smacked for 17 off his one over and spilled a key catch.  

Maxwell has now scored just 32 in his six innings for RCB this season after innings of 0, 3, 28, 0, 1 and 0. 

T20 Cricket can be cruel! ????

This season has dealt us tough hands, and the heartache is real for both our players and fans. ????#PlayBold #ನಮ್ಮRCB #IPL2024 #MIvRCB

— Royal Challengers Bengaluru (@RCBTweets) April 11, 2024

This time, pushed down the order to No.5, he was given out plumb lbw, hitting across the line as Shreyas Gopal’s wrong ‘un trapped him all ends up. He didn’t even bother to review.

Still, RCB, who also lost mainstay Virat Kohli for just three at the top of the order, were able to fashion a considerable total of 8-196, thanks largely to captain Faf du Plessis’s 61, a 26-ball half-century from Rajat Patidar and a dazzling 23-ball unbeaten 53 from veteran keeper Dinesh Karthik.

The total would have been even more if not for the enduring excellence of Jasprit Bumrah, who was a class apart in Mumbai’s attack, taking a five-for while conceding just 21 runs off his four overs.

Mumbai, though, made it look easy meat, once captain Ishan Kishan, leading the way with a thunderous 69 off 34 balls, and Rohit Sharma (38) put on a century opening stand.

Glenn Maxwell has equalled an unwanted record ???? #IPL2024

— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) April 11, 2024

Maxwell didn’t find a hint of spin as Ishan smacked him for a six and two boundaries in his one over, and he was quickly taken out of the firing line.

Then to compound his miserable day, with RCB’s only faint hope being to get rid of the deadly impact sub Suryakumar Yadav swiftly amid the cascade of runs, Maxwell, fielding at point, looked a picture of misery as he failed to hold on to a fierce cut.

It wasn’t an easy chance but one that Maxwell would normally have expected to pocket. Instead, he had to go off straight after the drop for treatment with his hand still stinging.

Suryakumar (52) went on to make a blistering half-century off just 17 balls to power   Mumbai to a one-sided victory with 29 balls to spare.

Aussie ‘finisher’ Tim David wasn’t even needed for the Indians, even though he had earlier made a notable contribution when he took two catches, including one excellent diving effort in the deep at long on to get rid of du Plessis.

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