Australia's Steve Smith steps down as captain of IPL side Rajasthan Royals

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Steve Smith has stepped down as captain of Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals following the ball-tampering controversy during Australia's third Test defeat by South Africa.

The 28-year-old has been banned for one Test and fined his entire match fee by cricket's world governing body after admitting a plan to ball tamper.

Smith says he has taken the decision so the team can prepare for the IPL "without the ongoing distractions".

Ajinkya Rahane will replace Smith.

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The IPL starts on Saturday, 7 April, with the Royals scheduled to play their first match two days later against Sunrisers Hyderabad, who are captained by Smith's international team-mate David Warner.

Smith and Warner both agreed to step down as Australia captain and vice-captain respectively before the start of the fourth day's play against South Africa.

They did so after Smith said the team's "leadership group" had a plan, carried out by Cameron Bancroft, to tamper with the ball to "get an advantage".

"The incident in Cape Town has certainly disturbed the cricket world," said Rajasthan Royals head of cricket Zubin Bharucha.

"We have been in constant touch with the BCCI (Indian cricket board) and taken their counsel. Furthermore, we have been in regular contact with Steve."

Rajasthan Royals co-owner Manoj Badale said the franchise agreed with Smith's decision but that cricket fans retained "a balanced perspective on the situation".

He added: "What happened in South Africa was clearly wrong, especially given that it appears to have been premeditated.

"That said, this will be a difficult time for Steve as well, given how much he cares about the game."

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