Cricket Australia’s decision to refuse Steve Smith’s desire to play in the Big Bash has reached extraordinary new heights, with a second bid to allow Smith to represent the Sydney Sixers in the BBL finals rejected.
It comes after yet another Sixers player was ruled out of Wednesday night’s semi-final at the SCG.
Australian wicket-keeper batsman Josh Philippe is the latest to be ruled out of their showdown with the Strikers.
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Already without Jack and Mickey Edwards due to Covid-19, the BBL wicket-keeper of the tournament was the latest to contract the virus.
It has left the Sydney Sixers with precious little talent to pick from and they have now called up assistant coach Jay Lenton into the squad.
It is understood CA have provided the Sixers an exception to play because the wicket-keeper position is a specialist role.
As one source noted, had Smith been a keeper, he would have been allowed to play.
Lenton is no novice with the gloves. The Manly wicket-keeper spent years with the Sydney Thunder and is a handy left-hander with the bat.
But for a competition lacking some star power, CA’s hard line stance not to allow Smith to play because he was not in the original squad seems an extraordinary stance.
It can be revealed the Sixers made a second and final last gasp bid for Steve Smith to play earlier on Wednesday.
It was suggested that each of the remaining three clubs – not just the Sixers – could add a player to their squad.
But after consulting with the states, Cricket Australia rejected the 11th hour proposal, citing the precedent they set last week as the primary reason.
There was also uncertainty around how the clubs would choose their players. What if the Strikers and Scorchers wanted to pick the same cricketer?
Ultimately the Sixers submission was flat-batted, leaving them to search for other options at the top of the order.
CA says the integrity of the competition would be compromised if the rules were broken to allow Smith to play.
Yet the same BBL competition has allowed players to play for multiple teams because of the Covid-19 outbreak which has wreaked havoc on the competition.
While other Test players remained under contract at BBL sides during the Ashes, Smith chose not to sign a deal and take up a spot on the Sixers’ list.
“At the start of the season, he opted not to go for a contract unlike some other guys have, and give other guys in the squad the opportunity to be part of the Sixers and feel a part of the Sixers with a contract,” Australian all rounder Sean Abbott said.
Abbott said the BBL was inadvertently punishing its fans by keeping Smith on the sidelines.
“It’s disappointing,” he said.
“If I was someone sitting at home not able to come to the Big Bash, I’d certainly want to be watching Steve Smith go out there and play for the Sixers. “
Sixers captain Moises Henriques described the decision as “sad for cricket”.
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Philippe’s unavailability, which could be compounded by a possible withdrawal of Daniel Hughes (injury), threatens to end the Sixers’ hopes of a rare three-peat.
Compounding the Sixers’ frustration further are the recent returns of star Test duo Travis Head and Alex Carey.
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SIXERS: Jay Lenton, Justin Avendano, Moises Henriques (c), Jordan Silk, Nicholas Bertus, Dan Christian, Sean Abbott, Hayden Kerr, Ben Dwarshuis, Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe
STICKERS: Alex Carey (c), Matthew Short, Ian Cockbain, Travis Head, Jono Wells, Matt Renshaw, Thomas Kelly, Henry Thornton, Peter Siddle (c), Harry Conway, Fawad Ahmed
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