Sydney Sixers star Steve O’Keefe says fifth place should not be good enough to make the finals of the Big Bash and suggests the format is designed to produce more games.
O’Keefe's Sixers sit atop the BBL table, ahead of their showdown with the Perth Scorchers at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Saturday night.
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Speaking in the lead-up to the clash with the team currently occupying third spot on the ladder, O'Keefe suggested that the current finals format was purely a money-spinner.
The BBL brought in a five-team finals series this year, with the competition previously featuring just four out of the eight teams at the business end of the tournament.
The Sydney Thunder - who hit a purple patch of form last season only to fall just short of the finals in fifth spot - provide a good example of the benefits of the current finals format.
However, with only three sides set to miss out on finals action, O’Keefe is not sold on the format.
"What I don’t agree with is that fifth place can make the finals," he said.
"I think this has been done just to produce more games of cricket.
"You saw the Thunder last year finish fifth and almost make it through to the finals, and I think that gives you a good indication where teams are and they can go on to win the tournament.
"It's better to finish first and second."
The Sixers can consolidate their spot at the top of the table against the Scorchers on Saturday night, but O’Keefe brushed aside suggestions the title will go to one of those teams or the second-placed Thunder.
"I think it’s a lot closer than that," he said.
"Anyone, one through to six, can win it."
Sixers aiming to cement top spot
The Sixers have proven themselves as the BBL's ultimate road warriors, leading the ladder despite being dealt the toughest hand by COVID-19.
The Sixers' win over the Thunder on Wednesday night put them six points clear at the top, despite being set to play no games at home this summer.
It's enough to make you think the old home-ground advantage is dead, until you look at the rest of the league, just past two-thirds of the way into the competition.
Of the 22 matches played by teams in their home state so far this season, the hosts have won 15.
Nowhere has that been clearer than for the Perth Scorchers, who won just one from five on the road, compared to four straight at Optus Stadium.
All that makes the Sixers' record even more impressive, with mind games inside the squad convincing their players the time away can be a positive.
"Always as a group, we have loved playing away from home," wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe said.
"The circumstances are a little bit different and it's had its challenges. But we always have loved playing away.
"So we've come into this season knowing that we're not going to be home much.
"We've just really come together as a group. We spend a lot of time together and really just try to keep everyone going.
"And just keep keep telling each other that we love playing away. So that's probably been the biggest part of it."
It comes after the Sixers dropped just one game at the SCG last year, and claimed victory in the final there.
With games moved due to Sydney's COVID-19 outbreak, their draw now sees the Sixers play in every state bar their own.
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