Cricket | Rajasthan Royals want Klaasen as replacement for Smith



Heinrich Klaasen as replacement for Steve Smith might sound surprising, but Zubin Bharucha, Rajasthan Royals' head of cricket, is absolutely certain it is the South African that they wanted.

"Our aim was to get someone who can play spin well because we are pretty sure that spinners will have a big role to play during the IPL," Bharucha told TOI on Thursday (March 29) after sending a request for the South African to the BCCI.

"Klaasen is an amazing player of spin. And he has a vast array of shots, which tempted us to go for him. He plays the reverse sweep very well, something that will be quite useful in the IPL." Bharucha admitted that the way Klaasen handled Indian spinners Yuzuvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav tilted the scales in his favour. "His strategy against them was just amazing," Bharucha said.

Incidentally, wicketkeeper-batsman Klaasen was not in the South African team against India and was included only after regular wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock got injured. Although Royals have two quality wicketkeepers in Sanju Samson and Jos Butler, Klaasen will be a welcome addition. Bharucha was, however, very clear that the South African was being added to the squad for his skills with the bat only.

Royals did consider names like Joe Rot and Hashim Amla, who seem to be ideal replacements for Smith, but Bharucha explained that they decided to go for a player who was completely different. "Smith will be back with us next year and we did not want to end up with two similar players. Our idea was to build the team keeping three years in mind. Even after Smith is back, Klaasen will be very useful for us."

The best part of the deal is that 27-year-old Klaasen will cost them only Rs 50 lakh, his base price. Klaasen was not among the initial 578 in the auctions, but was called up in the extended list. With Royals retaining Smith for INR 12.5 Crore, it would appear that the Royals have made a huge saving. Bharucha clarified that the amount will be blocked for Smith when he joins the team next year.

Klaasen, Bharucha informed, was quite surprised when approached and immediately said yes. RR's head of cricket added that Klaasen was in fact, one of the pivots they were looking at. "Some of our strategies can very well revolve around him."

The fact that Klaasen has played very little cricket in India does not bother him. "In this format, that does not matter much."

But, wouldn't a more experienced player have helped Royals? Someone skipper Ajinkya Rahane can turn to for advice? "Rahane can turn to anyone," Bharucha said. "All our players know the exact role they are expected to play. Even the junior most player will be able to tell Rahane if something is not going as per plan."