Ahmedabad: Australian all-rounder Shane Watson believes his countryman and Rajasthan Royals teammate Steve Smith is up there with India's batting order mainstay Virat Kohli and South African skipper AB De Villiers as the current best willowers of the game.
Smith has continued his rollicking form from the World Cup into the Indian Premier League (IPL) scoring an unbeaten 79 from 53 balls to help his team beat Mumbai Indians by 7 wickets here on Tuesday.
"I think he (Smith) is on par with AB de Villiers at the moment and Virat Kohli when he is at his best. It is incredible to see him just continue to pile on the runs in every format. It looks like it's not going to end and let's hope it doesn't for quite a while," Watson was quoted as saying by iplt20.com on Wednesday.
Asked how he was recovering from the injury which has kept him out of the first three IPL games, he said: "I got hit around the hip during the first training session of the tournament and it has taken a bit of time to recover. We are going to travel to Vizag overnight, so it's going to be touch and go for the next game. I will surely be back in the team for our game here against the Chennai Super Kings."
Watson was impressed with the batting exploits of Royals' young middle order batsman Deepak Hooda who was instrumental in the team's win against Delhi Daredevils. Hooda scored a handy knock of 54 runs off 25 balls.
"Deepak Hooda is something very special. We saw him last year, just in and around the group and in training, and it has worked out very well to give him an opportunity at the start of this season. He is someone who has very special talent. With the ball he reads the batsman really well and with the bat his power is something incredible," Watson said.
"You don't really see it often in India - a young guy coming through who can hit the ball that hard and powerfully. We are very lucky, the Royals, to have him," Watson said.
Royals are playing their seven home matches away from home - four in Ahmedabad and three in Mumbai. Asked how the change in home venues can be a problem for the team, the all-rounder said they need to adapt to the conditions quickly but added they will be missing the vociferous Jaipur crowd.
"We had that (problem of combination) last year and that was something we didn't adapt quick enough to. The ball turned a lot more here in Ahmedabad than we probably thought it was going to. In this game it didn't turn so much but the pitch was still quite slow," he said.
"For us, probably the biggest challenge is not having the home crowd support, more than anything else. We have got the players who can adapt to the wicket and the conditions," he added.