The Sydney Sixers are seething after it emerged on Thursday night that they have been blocked from using Steve Smith in the BBL finals.
Smith's application to play for the Sixers in Saturday night's qualifying final against the Perth Scorcers has been rejected by Cricket Australia.
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An inaugural Sydney Sixer, Smith hasn't played a single match in the BBL this summer but is suddenly available to play after New Zealand postponed its ODI tour of Australia.
That means Smith and every other member of Australia's ODI squad suddenly have no cricket to play, so the Sixers wanted him to help their BBL finals campaign.
The Sixers had left a spot in their squad free in case a big-name international player became available, and were hoping to use it for Smith - who wasn't named in their squad this season.
But Cricket Australia blocked the plan after a phone hook up with state CEOs.
Under BBL rules, replacement players are only allowed to be taken from the local player replacement pool (LRP), which was set up when a number of teams were ravaged by Covid.
But if Smith was named in the replacement pool, he would have been available to any team who wanted him.
"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.
"The league acknowledges a request by the Sydney Sixers to sign Steven Smith as an LRP from outside the LRP pool.
"This request was denied on the basis that a further adjustment to the league regulations was unanimously rejected by other state associations/clubs in the interest of fairness, noting that other players returning to the BBL from international duty have been retained on club lists throughout the competition."
Sydney Sixers fume over 'ridiculous' Steve Smith ruling
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.
Smith is now set to commentate on the match against the Scorchers instead.
"Here's a team that wants Steve Smith in it and CEOs at a round table meeting voted against it," one Sixers insider told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"We've got an international world class player who wants to play and they're telling him no because all of a sudden the integrity of the competition is important.
"Alex Carey is playing for the Strikers, Scott Boland is back for the Hurricanes, Marnus (Labuschagne) played for Heat but we can't use a player who's been with us since day dot.
"What a disgrace."
Asked the mood in the Sixers camp, the insider replied: "Everyone is outraged. They think we're trying to push the rules but everyone knows he (Smith) is a loyal Sixers player and has been from the start.
"He said 'I want to play' and they've knocked him back.
"One of CA's main pillars includes fans first but that seems to have gone out the window.
"Apparently using club players to fill holes is okay but when a world class player puts his hand up they brush him. This is an absolutely poor decision."
Sixers veteran Dan Christian also slammed the "ridiculous" ruling on SEN Radio.
"It makes no sense to us as players ... it's just really disappointing," Christian said.
"One of the criticisms of the Big Bash when you look at it, having played in a lot of overseas competitions, all the other competitions have the best local players playing.
"So the IPL has got all the Indian guys playing, the Caribbean league has got all the West Indians playing et cetera, whereas we have never really had access to our Aussie guys.
"And now we're going to have access due to this New Zealand and Australia series being postponed and yet we're going to ban them playing our domestic competition.
"To have someone like Steve available and then to knock that back, it makes no sense to me whatsoever."
Fans are also up in arms, with many labelling the move "ridiculous" and a "disgrace".
Ridiculous this wasn’t allowed… surely CA want the biggest names playing in the BBL but obviously not
— Daniel Tabone (@danieltabone96) January 20, 2022
I would have let Steve Smith play in the big bash no question, even non-Sydney Sixers fan as I am I would say go ahead and play him. They at Cricket Australia say they always like the big name stars playing BBL well this just 🪰's in the face of that
— James Mathews (@BigJamesMathews) January 20, 2022
I gave up on the BBL a while go. Even so, seriously @CricketAus a star international player with a chance to play a domestic game and you don’t let it happen due to a technicality that shouldn’t apply here because no one knew the international matches would be canceled…
— Liam F (@LiamF85) January 20, 2022
Short sighted BS.
He’s a Sixers player, always has been, always will be.
The fans are the game, not agendas.
Let him play
— Matt Turbill (@5StarMatt73) January 20, 2022
Ridiculous that CA rules are dictated by the states.
CA makes the rules, the states play by them.
— Matt Turbill (@5StarMatt73) January 20, 2022
There’s arguments both ways and understand there are rules… but good lord - Australia’s best batsmen wants to play in its domestic tournament (that has thus far been flat and lacking star power) and he’s turned away. Not sure it’s a great look for CA or BBL.
— Ben Beech (@BenBeech22) January 20, 2022
The bbl are rigging the tournament so the same team don’t keep winning. So petty bbl. What an utter joke
— Earn2lol🇦🇺🐾 (@earn2lol1) January 20, 2022
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