Indian Premier League big spenders Rajasthan Royals said Wednesday they will not be keeping Australian star batsman Steve Smith for this year’s contest and he is not the only Aussie to be axed.

The Royals decision is a second blow this week for Smith after being in the Australian side beaten by India in a test series.

The Royals have however kept England stars Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer in their team which Smith had captained this year when they came bottom of the eight team league.

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“Steve has been a great player and great leader for the Royals, and we want to thank him for his contribution to the franchise,” said Royals owner Manoj Badale.

Speaking to ANI, sources in the Royals franchise said: “Yes, Smith has been released. It went down to the wire, to be honest. We had discussions on the matter and the call was taken today itself.”

Sanju Samson will be the new captain.

The star batsman played 14 matches in the 2020 IPL, which was played behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates because of the coronavirus pandemic, scoring 311 runs.

Smith contributed a century and two fifties for Australia in the Test series won by India 2-1 and would still be a top draw in the IPL auction due to be held next month.

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The Indians have also released pace trio Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson from Australia and New Zealand’s Mitchell McClenaghan.

Meanwhile Australia’s Marcus Stoinis will stay on for his franchise Delhi Capitals along with South African quick Kagiso Rabada. But the side have released England batsman Jason Roy.

Punjab King’s XI, among the poor performers in 2020, have released Australian batsman Glenn Maxwell. Punjab said however that they will be keeping 41-year-old West Indies big hitter Chris Gayle who will be looking to add to his record 13,500 runs in T20 cricket.

Royal Challengers Bangalore have retained the likes of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Siraj but Aussie Aaron Finch has been released.

The IPL — the world’s wealthiest cricket tournament which attracts top stars from around the globe — is expected to start in April.

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