Cricket Australia has announced that Travis Head, Alex Carey and D'Arcy Short will be released from national duties for tomorrow's KFC BBL final in Adelaide.
Adelaide Strikers duo Head and Carey as well as Hobart Hurricanes opener Short will head to Adelaide tomorrow morning following Australia's Gillette T20 Tri-Series opener against New Zealand in Sydney tonight.
After the final, the trio will head to Hobart on Monday and re-join the national squad ahead of the second match of the T20 tri-series, against England at Blundstone Arena on Wednesday.
The release clause has not applied to fast bowlers because of their tougher physical workloads, so Strikers quick Billy Stanlake will not play in the BBL final and instead stay with the national squad.
No sooner had Travis Head come to grips with the reality he had guided his Adelaide Strikers outfit into their first KFC Big Bash League final than he was grappling with the uncertainty as to whether he will be participating in that historic event.
Head wasn’t expected to be part of last night's knife-edge semi-final against Melbourne Renegades that he ultimately dominated with the bat (85 not out from 57 balls), opened the bowling (1-27 from his four overs) and maintained a cool countenance through the nerve-jangling final overs.
He is, after all, a member of Australia’s outfit that is currently camped in Sydney preparing for tonight's game against New Zealand that kicks off the Gillette T20 International tri-series, also featuring England.
But when the national selection panel resolved that Head would not be required for the tournament opener at the SCG given Australia’s glut of top-order batters, he was granted compassionate leave to return to the Strikers for their cut-throat semi-final.
As had been the case earlier in the tournament, when the 24-year-old was dropped from Australia's ODI team for the third of five one-dayers against England and turned out for the Strikers – also against the Renegades, when he made 58 and led his team to a win – before winning back his ODI place.
The question that hung heavy in the air above Adelaide Oval, as the pyrotechnics' smoke and spontaneous euphoria slowly cleared last night, was whether the left-hander would again be granted dispensation to play in tomorrow's BBL|07 final against Hobart Hurricanes at the same venue.
And, if so, whether the same contingency would extend to the Hurricanes' best-performed batter of the tournament D’Arcy Short, who is also part of Australia’s T20 squad for the T20 series, as well as the Strikers' leading scorer of their campaign Alex Carey (also named for national T20 honours).
It's a query for which Head can provide no answer, that Cricket Australia is similarly unable to definitively rule upon until tonight’s game against the Black Caps is completed, and that has some (including Renegades captain Cameron White) wondering aloud.
"I’m not sure yet, I’m back with the (Australia T20) guys tomorrow night," Head said in the aftermath of the Strikers final-ball triumph when asked if he was any chance of returning from Sydney (where he travels this morning) to play in Sunday’s final.
"It would be nice to play (in the BBL final, but it was nice to get some runs here, to come back and play in front of a big crowd in a high-pressure game.
"We’ll cross that bridge tomorrow and work out what’s happening.
"It was very pro-active from the selectors and Darren (Lehmann, Bupa Support Team men’s coach) to give me the opportunity (to return to the BBL).
"I’m only young and still trying to learn my craft and there’s nothing better than playing in front of a full house in high pressure games, and execute.
"We said at the start of the game that we need match-winners tonight, and I was able to be a match-winner which is fantastic."
Given that Head – as the only batter in the match to surpass 60 – ultimately proved the difference in a game that was decided when former Strikers hero Kieron Pollard swung heftily but missed Ben Laughlin’s final delivery, Renegades' skipper White did not find it quite so "fantastic".
But White, who himself missed a number of BBL games this summer when he was recalled to the Australia ODI team and played three of their five games against England, claimed last night he endorsed the national selectors' decision even if he was unsure of the rationale that underpinned it.
"I don’t think there needs to be a policy or anything like that, it’s just that if the Australian selectors see there’s an opportunity to release a player to go and play, (they) just take every situation individually and on its merits," White said.
"I don’t think there needs to be a set rule.
"If they (selectors) think he (Head) is not going to play in the (T20I) game tomorrow he can go back (to the BBL) and play, and it’s not going to upset the team’s plans or anything like that.
"I don’t think anyone in the comp has an issue with it."
White conceded he did not understand why he had not been similarly released to return for the Renegades in their BBL derby against cross-town rivals Melbourne Stars on January 12, two days prior to the opening match of the Gillette ODI Series against England in which he did not play.
The veteran conceded that was likely because it was the first game of the ODI tournament and selectors had not decided upon their starting XI, and were therefore unable to nominate which player(s) in the squad would be surplus and therefore free for BBL duties.
It is uncertainty that also precludes selectors from nominating if any (or all) of Head, Carey and Short can be feasibly released for tomorrow’s BBL|07 final, as they must ensure they have XI fit players to take the field on game day against New Zealand.
And that all those who play in that game pull up unscathed and are available if needed for game two in Hobart next Wednesday.
Only then can selectors and team management make a call on the batters eligible for the final – the release clause will not apply to fast bowlers such as the Strikers' Billy Stanlake because of their tougher physical workloads – as they have already stated that national team interests remain their priority.
As such, a decision on availability for the BBL showpiece at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon won’t be made until immediately after tonight's international at the SCG, at the earliest.
Which will leave any eligible player with little time to prepare for the final, as they will need to catch an early morning flight from Sydney tomorrow to make the game's 4pm (Adelaide) starting time.
"At present, unless otherwise advised, Australia players named in the T20I squad will remain with the squad," a Cricket Australia spokesperson said last night.
"We will consider availability options post the T20I match, for the BBL final."
One change the Strikers will be forced to make is to replace their most successful bowler of BBL|07, star leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who must leave Adelaide this weekend to return to international commitments with Afghanistan who begin a limited-overs series against Zimbabwe in the UAE next week.
Head, who revealed last night that he would have turned to Rashid's spin bowling skill if the Renegades had forced the semi-final into a Super-Over, is confident that the Strikers have the depth to cover the loss of their cult-hero import.
Western Australia leg-spinner Liam O’Connor is expected to take Rashid’s place in the Strikers line-up, for his first appearance of the tournament in its biggest fixture.
"It’s nice to give him a game – quite a big game," Head said of O'Connor.
Whether the Australia selectors feel the same about Head, Short and Carey will be known in the coming day.