Josh Hazlewood has been released by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) ahead of the upcoming Indian Premier League cricket season after the franchise revealed the veteran Aussie fast bowler is expecting his first child with wife, Cherina Murphy Christian. Hazlewood played an integral part in Australia's ODI Cricket World Cup triumph in India and was excellent for RCB in last season's IPL.
Hazlewood's release from the RCB squad means Australia's World Cup-winning pace bowling trio are without IPL franchises for the new season. Aussie captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are also not contracted to a side for the 2024 season, ahead of next month's IPL auction.
RCB coach coach Andy Fowler said Hazlewood's exciting baby news was behind the shock decision from the franchise not to retain the classy quick. Fowler did appear to leave the door ajar for Hazlewood to re-join his side after the birth of his first child next year.
“I’ve just come off the phone with Josh,” the RCB coach said. “He, very pleasingly, has a baby on the way, due at the end of March. So Josh won’t be with us, certainly not for the first half of the season.”
The announcement came on the same day that Steve Smith's return to the Sydney Sixers was confirmed for the upcoming Big Bash season in Australia. While many cricket fans were left in shock at RCB's decision to release Hazlewood from their squad, others were hoping it cleared the way for the paceman to return to the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), where he remains a fan favourite after helping them win a fourth IPL title in 2021.
Shocked to see Josh Hazlewood released by RCB. Means Australia’s big three quicks will all be available at the IPL auction next month. Justin Langer’s Lucknow Super Giants have also released Daniel Sams.
— Daniel Cherny (@DanielCherny) November 26, 2023
— VINEETH𓃵🦖 (@sololoveee) November 26, 2023
— Ameya (@AmeyaP14) November 26, 2023
RCB fans shocked?
Wanindu Hasaranga and Josh Hazlewood have been released and RCB will now have to rebuild its bowling attack#IPLretention
— Abdul Ghaffar 🇵🇰 (@GhaffarDawnNews) November 26, 2023
— 🜲 (@balltampererrr) November 26, 2023
— Shaurya Singh (@shaurya2268) November 26, 2023
Hazlewood's release came on a mixed day for Australian cricket, with Cameron Green traded from the Mumbai Indians to RCB in a cash deal reportedly worth AUD $3.1 million. Green is set to link up with compatriot Glenn Maxwell and Indian superstar Virat Kohli at RCB next season, with Mumbai striking the deal to free up more money for the IPL auction, having snared Green for more than $3 million last season.
Steve Smith in exciting return for Aussie fans
Meantime, World Cup-winning teammate Smith is set to make a triumphant return to the Sydney Sixers after a memorable cameo last season. Smith's return to the BBL last season came after a three-year hiatus and coincided with him being named in the BBL team of the season, despite playing just five games.
Smith averaged 86.5 runs and became the first Sixers batter to hit a century, before going on to make an an unbeaten 125 against the Thunder. The 34-year-old is still in India as part of Australia's T20i series and will only be able to play a limited number of games for the Sixers, despite being offered a fully fledged BBL contract, rather than the supplementary one he was on last season.
Smith is likely to square off against Melbourne Renegades recruit Nathan Lyon in the first game of the BBL season on December 8 before Australia's Test series against Pakistan begins the following week. A 10-day gap between Australia's series against Pakistan and West Indies presents another chance for him to feature when the Sixers face local rivals the Sydney Thunder on January 12.
The Sixers can replace Smith with another local player when he is on Test duty. As was the case last summer, Smith would be unavailable if the Sixers made it deep into the play-offs; this year's final takes place the day before the final West Indies Test begins.
"I've got some really fond memories playing for the Sixers," Smith said. "Obviously, I am an original, part of the first squad and really enjoyed my time last year for the five or six games and the finals that I played so I am keen to get out there again." Lyon, David Warner, Scott Boland, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne are among the other Australian internationals expected to play during the BBL this summer.
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