Sydney, Jan 21 (IANS): Australian Test team vice-captain Steve Smith will not be able to compete in the Big Bash League (BBL) this season after Cricket Australia (CA) blocked Sydney Sixers' move following opposition from other stakeholders.
Sydney Sixers were hoping to get the former Australian skipper on board ahead of their Saturday night qualifying final against Perth Scorchers but his application was rejected "after other states voted against allowing Smith to play in the qualifier, a decision rubber-stamped by CA," cricket.com.au reported on Friday.
Smith was not on Sydney Sixers' playing list in the BBL this season because of the Ashes and the subsequent limited-overs series against New Zealand. But with the series against the Blackcaps getting postponed because of COVID-related issues, it opened a window for Smith to represent Sydney Sixers.
However, CA said that allowing the star batter to don Sixers colours would breach "rules put in place two weeks ago regarding replacement players for squads hit by COVID-related withdrawals", the report said.
"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," the report said.
"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 (Smith's request) was denied... noting that other players returning to the BBL from international duty have been retained on club lists throughout the competition."
Sydney Sixers skipper Moises Henriques slammed the move to block Smith from competing for the team. It's "really disappointing" and "sad for cricket", said Henriques. "You have got a former Australian captain, one of the best players in the world," Henriques said 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 added.
Meanwhile, several Ashes stars, including Nathan Lyon and Travis Head, are set to return for BBL and will play in the finals. They were, however, all contracted by their franchises for the tournament.
"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. To say (we're) a little bit disgruntled would be an understatement. It's really disappointing," added Henriques.
"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. 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."