MELBOURNE: Big Bash League (BBL) side Sydney Sixers' third and last bid to have Australian batter Steve Smith on board for their BBL-11 final later on Friday against Perth Scorchers has been turned down by Cricket Australia (CA).
Ahead of the BBL Play-off on January 26 against Adelaide Strikers, the Sixers had made an effort to get Smith in but CA had stone-walled their request, despite the side woefully short of resources to field a 13-man team.
The Sixers have been hit hard by COVID-19 and injuries. Smith, the Test vice-captain, had not renewed his contracted with 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.
CA has stuck to their rule that only cricketers in the central pool of 'local replacement players' created on January 10 can be picked by BBL teams in the event of injury or COVID-19 crisis.
With Smith chances to play in the final officially over, Sixers' captain Moises Henriques and veteran spinner Steve O'Keefe will play through injuries. Nearly half of the Sixers' first-choice XI are either nursing injuries or have tested COVID-positive.
A report in cricket.com.au said that Henriques made one more request ahead of the final to bring the Australia No. 4 into the team for the final at Marvel Stadium, but it was "rejected".
"The only way Smith would have been able to play in the decider was if he was added to the Centralised Player Replacement pool, which would have needed to be ticked off by the BBL Technical Committee, but it's believed officials determined that there was adequate batting cover available for the Sixers in the pool," said the report.
Henriques, while confirming that he had asked for Smith's inclusion a third time, also added that he should be able to play the final despite the calf injury.
"We've definitely asked to bring him (Smith) into the pool," Henriques said. "Unless we can get Steve, I'm not sure there's anyone left in the pool that we want to bring in. We'll look within our own resources before looking out, whether that is playing an extra bowler. We don't know what the balance might look like to be honest, it's something we've got to try and make a decision on by the time the game starts.
"We have enough players to field an XI, it's just we'd probably have to pick bowlers to bat in positions," added Henriques.