(Reuters) - Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals have released captain Steve Smith ahead of the 2021 IPL auction, the team said on Wednesday.
The Australian is one of eight players released by Rajasthan and will be replaced as skipper by wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson.
The Royals retained the England trio of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer, while West Indies quick Oshane Thomas and Englishman Tom Curran have also been released.
Smith played all 14 league matches in last season's IPL, scoring 311 runs at a strike rate of 131, including three half-centuries, but the Royals finished last in the eight-team league.
"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," the team's lead owner Manoj Badale said in a statement.
"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... has been immense."
Mumbai Indians were unable to retain Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga after the fast bowler announced his retirement from franchise cricket due to safety and travel concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"After discussing with family, I think now is the right time to retire from all franchise cricket," Malinga, the IPL's leading wicket taker with 170 wickets, said in a statement https://www.mumbaiindians.com/news/malinga-decides-to-retire-from-franchise-cricket.
"The pandemic situation and the restrictions on travel will make it difficult for me given my personal circumstances to participate fully in franchise cricket for the next year and therefore it is best to make this decision now."
Elsewhere, Royal Challengers Bangalore released Australia's limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch and England all-rounder Moeen Ali.
Finch, 34, scored 268 runs, including a half-century, in 12 matches last season, while Moeen scored 12 runs and bagged one wicket in three games.
Kings XI Punjab released Australia's Glenn Maxwell after the all-rounder scored 108 runs and picked up three wickets in 13 games last season.
The Punjab franchise also let go of West Indies bowler Sheldon Cottrell and New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)