Pat Cummins has taken a gentle jibe at Cricket Australia following the decision to bar Steve Smith from participating in the latter stages of the Big Bash League, due to an obscure rule introduced only weeks ago.
Since January 10, any replacement players in the BBL must be signed from within a pool of replacement players living within the league’s Melbourne hub, a measure brought in to aid with combatting player absences due to Covid-19.
Smith has long been a Sydney Sixers player, but is not contracted this season due to his involvement with Australia’s national sides. He had been set to miss the BBL finals while playing in Australia’s ODI series against New Zealand, but after that series was postponed, Sydney Sixers attempted to bring him back into the fold. But with Smith not being part of the Local Replacement Player pool, the other franchises involved in the tournament voted against his inclusion.
“To stay (I’m) a little bit disgruntled would be an understatement. It’s really disappointing,” said Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques. ““When you’ve got someone who’s played for your club for 11 years, he’s captained the country, he’s one of the best cricketers in the world and this tournament has probably lacked those types of stars throughout … you’ve got someone who wants to play, basically for free, just to play and you’re robbing him of the opportunity. It’s sad for cricket. That’s all.”
The BBL has endured a tough year, with player unavailability and a lack of crowd interest hitting the event. The appearance of one of the country’s most famous faces might have been viewed as a much-needed good news story, but instead, barring a late u-turn, Smith will have to watch on from the stands.
“It’s not a matter of protocol. It’s a matter of a rule that got changed two weeks ago that they probably didn’t quite cross the t’s and dot the i’s on,” Henriques said. “I’m still hopeful that they’ll look at that again and realise they made the wrong call. We’ve still got at least 24 hours before the game starts.
“This isn’t a rule that’s been in place for 11 years or even this year entirely, it’s just a two-week-old rule.It’s been a really difficult year and we’re all learning on the fly. What I do respect is that they have kept rolling with the punches. I just can’t see why they don’t keep rolling with the punches now; why they can’t continue to be flexible.”
The move has been met with criticism from outside of the Sydney Sixers too. Former Australia Test opener Ed Cowan tweeted his disapproval.
“This makes absolutely ZERO sense to me,” he said. “CA served up a free hit and decide to let it go through to the keeper. Why on earth would you turn down a star who wants to play. You can’t claim integrity of the competition grounds given all that has gone on this year…”
Australia’s current Test captain also enjoyed a joke over the issue. A post by Cricket Australia on Instagram carried the caption, “Which Ashes star are you most looking forward to seeing in the BBL Finals?” to which Cummins replied: “Smithy”.
Peter Siddle and Dan Christian, two other Australia internationals, joined Cummins in commenting on the post. Sydney Sixers take on Perth Scorchers on January 22.