Ben Stokes (left) and Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson (right) will be leading Rajasthan Royals while the team management has retained the England trio of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Kolkata: Rajasthan Royals, who finished as wooden-spooners in IPL 2020, came up with the most sensational announcement when they named Sanju Samson as their captain for the 14th edition of IPL this year. In what was the penultimate day of all eight franchises finalising their list of retention and release of players, Royals dropped Steve Smith - their last year’s captain - who had a poor season with the bat.

In other key decisions, five-time champions Mumbai Indians have retained the core group of their squad though they have released Lasith Malinga, the trusted match-winner who looks past his prime now. The likes of captain Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and the Pandya Brothers will again be donning the blue jersey. Thursday is the deadline for announcing the final retention list of the players as the Mini Auction will take place in February.

Delhi Capitals, runners-up in the UAE edition, also opted for continuity as they retained 19 players, which includes six overseas players. Indian internationals Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin have been retained along with Harshal Patel, Lalit Yadav, Pravin Dubey and Avesh Khan. Capitals have also retained six overseas players which include last season’s Purple Cap winner Kagiso Rabada, his South African pace partner Anrich Nortje, Australian all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams, West Indian batsman Shimron Hetmyer and English bowler Chris Woakes.

Lasith Malinga, the talismanic Mumbai Indians bowler, has been released for the upcoming season. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Commenting on their strategy for the season, Rajasthan Royals lead owner Manoj Badale said: “We would like to thank all of the players for their effort through the course of the previous seasons, and for always maintaining the Rajasthan Royals values. I would especially like to thank Steve Smith for everything that he has done as a leader and captain of the Royals. His contribution on the field, and his contribution off the field, especially towards the development of some of our young players, both as a captain and mentor has been immense.”

Speaking on the captaincy transition, Badale said : “As the IPL has grown, the captaincy has become a year-round task, and as such strong local Indian leadership has become increasingly important. Sanju made his debut as a Royal, and it has been a joy to watch his development over the last eight years. He is the ideal person to lead the Royals into the 2021 season.”

In another significant decision, three-time champions Chennai Super Kings has decided to retain Suresh Raina going into the mini-auction but the fate of Kedar Jadhav, Piyush Chawla and Murali Vijay’s fate hangs in balance. Foreign stars like Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis were also set to be retained while Harbhajan Singh has been released and Shane Watson has retired.

“Raina will definitely be a part of the CSK family. He is an integral member and there was never any doubt on him being retained. It was his personal call to return from UAE and the management was clear that his space needed to be respected. We expect him to fire on all cylinders this time around,’’ sources in the CSK told a news agency.