'Sad for cricket': CA blocks Smith's Big Bash return
Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques expresses his frustration after their attempts to bring Steve Smith in for finals were blocked
AAP & cricket.com.au
21 January 2022, 01:34 PM AEST
The Sydney Sixers have slammed Cricket Australia for blocking their move to pick Steve Smith for the KFC BBL finals, with skipper Moises Henriques labelling the decision "really disappointing" and "sad for cricket".
Smith's application to play for the Sixers in Saturday night's qualifying final against the Perth Scorchers has been rejected after other states voted against allowing Smith to play in the qualifier, a decision rubber-stamped by CA.
Smith, an inaugural Sydney Sixer, wasn't on the franchise's playing list this tournament given the star batsman was expected to be unavailable due to Australian commitments.
But the cancellation of Australia's limited overs series against New Zealand has opened the BBL door for Smith and other international players to play in the finals.
But CA says allowing Smith to play for the Sixers would have breached rules put in place two weeks ago regarding replacement players for squads hit by COVID-related withdrawals.
CA introduced a local replacement player pool (LRP) from which all franchises must pick any fill-in – had Smith been placed in that pool, he would have been available to any BBL franchise.
"In creating the central LRP pool, it was agreed that clubs would not be able to contract LRPs from outside the pool for the remainder of the season," CA said in a statement on Friday.
"This request was denied ... noting that other players returning to the BBL from international duty have been retained on club lists throughout the competition."
Several of Smith's Australian Test teammates, including Nathan Lyon and Travis Head, have returned to their BBL clubs and will play in the finals, but they were all contracted by their franchises for the tournament.
Henriques says the ruling defies CA's desire for the BBL to feature the best Australian players.
"You have got a former Australian captain, one of the best players in the world," Henriques told reporters on Friday.
"You have got IPL teams who pay multi-million dollars just to have this guy as part of their franchise. Advertising, bums on seats, eyes on TVs – I mean, you do the maths.
"And we're saying no because of a rule that is two weeks old in some COVID bubble hub. To me, I don't get it.
"We're in the top two without him ... so I have got absolute belief in our domestic talent and local talent to do the job.
"I think it's sad for cricket, that's all."
Henriques understood "how those mistakes were made initially two weeks ago" when drawing up the replacement player rules.
And he added the league's ability to react quickly during two COVID-effected seasons has made their decision to stick by the rules in this instance even more frustrating.
"What I do respect is that they (CA) have kept rolling with the punches, and I just can't see why they don't keep rolling with the punches now," he said.
"To say (we're) a little bit disgruntled would be an understatement. It's really disappointing.
"The people who have run this competition have acted on the fly on a number of occasions this season and changed the rules on a number of occasions to suit the competition and keep the competition moving forward. As they should, and I think they've done a brilliant job to date.
"It's a two-week old rule that was made on the fly and they obviously forgot about a loophole of any returning local Australian players who weren't already contracted.
"He's one of the best cricketers in the world and this tournament has lacked those names throughout the season at times. And you've got someone who wants to play basically for free, just to play, and you're robbing him the opportunity of it. It's pretty disappointing."