Ahead of the Big Bash League (BBL) Play-off later on Wednesday, Sydney Sixers’ last-ditch effort to get Australian batter Steve Smith on board for the clash against Adelaide Strikers was stonewalled by Cricket Australia (CA), despite the side woefully short of resources to field a 13-man team.
Smith, the Test vice-captain, was earlier not contracted by the Sixers this season as it was assumed that he would be unavailable due to international commitments such as the Ashes and the limited-overs series against New Zealand. But after the series against the Blackcaps got postponed because of COVID-related logistical problems — and a window opened for Smith to play in the BBL — Sixers contacted CA to contract him for the remaining matches.
On Wednesday, the BBL again rejected Smith on the grounds that he was not in the central pool of ‘local replacement players’ created on January 10.
The Sixers’ second request came after another of their players — wicketkeeper-batter Josh Philippe — was ruled out of the semifinal clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground. With Jack and Mickey Edwards out with COVID-19, Philippe is the latest to contract the virus, leaving the Sydney Sixers with limited resources at the business end of the tournament.
They have called up assistant coach Jay Lenton into the squad to do the wiketkeeping duties, according to a report in Fox Sports on Wednesday. “It is understood CA have provided the Sixers an exception to play because the wicket-keeper position is a specialist role,” according to the report, which added that “had Smith been a keeper, he would have been allowed to play.”
Jay Lenton is a former Sydney Thunder wicketkeeper and a handy left-handed batter, and looks set to take Philippe’s place behind the stumps.
The report said that CA after consulting with the states, rejected the last-minute proposal from the Sixers, citing the ‘local replacement players’ rule of January 10.
The report said that CA felt the “integrity of the competition would be compromised” if norms were broken to allow Smith to play.
While other Test cricketers remained under BBL contract even as they played the Ashes, Smith did not sign the deal with the Sixers.