Australia captain Steven Smith will miss the remainder of the tour of Sri Lanka - three ODIs and two T20Is - as he returns home to rest ahead of the tour of South Africa. David Warner will lead the side in the rest of the fixtures in Sri Lanka. Smith revealed the development at the end of the second ODI in Colombo, which Sri Lanka won by 82 runs to level the five-match series at 1-1.
"I hate missing cricket, but in the long run it will do me a world of good," Smith was quoted as saying by Cricket Australia on Twitter. "The schedule is very busy. I still want to take on the role in all three formats and do it to the best of my ability."
Australia has lost four of their five international fixtures on tour so far, but Smith suggested his early departure had been considered since much earlier in the tour. Australia's last match in Sri Lanka is a T20 international on September 9. Their tour of South Africa begins on September 27 with an ODI against Ireland in Benoni, after which they play five ODIs against South Africa.
"We spoke about it at the start of the Test series," Smith said. "There is the South Africa series next, and a big summer with six Test matches and a few one-dayers against New Zealand in between, before we go to India. So it was talked about - to try and give me a little break at some point. We had a few discussions - myself, Darren Lehmann and Rod Marsh, who also consulted with the other selectors. It took a bit of convincing to get me over the line."
Smith, who is Australia's captain across all formats, said the role remained manageable despite the team's busy schedule. He has captained in 42 international matches - including in 11 Tests - over the past year, in addition to playing in the IPL, most recently for Rising Pune Supergiants. He did not rule out taking his break from cricket during the IPL, but was quick to suggest the tournament was a valuable experience.
"For me, I've got a lot of time for the IPL," he said. "I think it's been a great learning curve for me. I think I've learned a lot about the way I play, particularly white-ball cricket, from the IPL. Playing a lot of back-to-back games I think you learn a lot about yourself as a player. I've certainly got a lot of time for the IPL in that respect. But captaining Australia is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time. At some point, maybe it could give. For now, I want to continue trying to play everything that I can."
Cricket Australia's national selector Rod Marsh said in a statement: "Steve has a large amount of cricket coming up in the next 12 months and we wanted to find a time for him to freshen up and these last five matches provide a good opportunity to do so.
"Regardless of the results of the first two matches our plan was always for Steve to take a break and refresh ahead of the ODI Series against South Africa next month."
Smith's replacement Warner has not captained Australia in any format, and now takes charge in a tour in which he has been in indifferent form.
"This is a great leadership opportunity for David, he has really embraced his role as vice-captain and we are confident he will do a great job in Steve's place," Marsh said.