Former Test captain Steve Smith says he has no plans to retire from cricket in the foreseeable future, but predicts he'll take a turn in the BBL in the twilight of his career. Smith says he's 'not going anywhere' at the Test level yet, declaring he still has plenty of cricket yet to play.
Nine members of the Test team that played against South Africa are making cameos in the BBL before the Australian team heads to India for the four Test campaign to win the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Smith will make his long-awaited return to the Sydney Sixers on Sunday evening, one of four games the former Test skipper will play for the side.
Australia leaves for India on January 31, leaving just enough time for a potential finals appearance in the BBL depending on team results. Smith was confident the BBL stints wouldn't affect the Aussie side, which has already weathered injuries to Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green earlier in the summer.
“It’s a lot easier on the mind and body. Certainly, something I’ll be looking at potentially when I finish up,” Smith said. "But I’ve still got a lot of cricket left in me. I’m not going anywhere for the time being, I’m really excited by what’s coming up and I feel like I am in a good place.”
Smith also couldn't help but take a sneaky jab at Test teammate Marnus Labuschagne, whose bowling spell for the Brisbane Heat ended in disaster. Labuschagne was belted for 20 runs from one over in the Heat's loss to the Perth Scorchers earlier in the week.
Australia's spin bowling attack as been a topic of interest heading into the India series, with Smith joining Todd Murphy, who was included in the Test squad for the first time, on the Sixers. The uncapped leg-spinner is in the squad alongside Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson.
The depth of spin available to Australia meant the part-time work of Smith and Labuschagne is unlikely to be necessary against India. This was a fact Smith joked was probably for the best, after a less than impressive spell of his own against South Africa.
“Did you see the last over I bowled in Sydney?” Smith cracked. “Although after Marnus’ over last night (in the BBL), I’ve probably gone back in front of him. We’ve got a lot of spinners.”
Steve Smith weighs up joining BBL after Test retirement
The BBL has long faced criticism for not featuring Australia's marquee talents, who are usually unavailable for all or part of the tournament because of commitments with the Test side. Smith hasn't played a BBL match for three years, while opener David Warner hasn't been seen in the league since 2014.
To entice the superstar batters into spending precious weeks off playing in the BBL, Cricket Australia (CA) had to supplement their salaries with money from their marketing budget, so as to come closer to the wages they could command playing in overseas T20 leagues. Smith admitted he was unsure how to draw the best talent to the BBL, but said money would inevitably be a factor.
"I don't know the exact answer, but that's the key, being able to get the best players in Australia and overseas players to be a part of our league," he said. "I think (money) does at times certainly talk, and the length of (the tournament) certainly talks."
Another solution to boosting the star-power of the tournament could be signing players who have already announced their retirements from Test cricket. Australian cricket legends Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Brett Lee all played in the BBL in its infancy after their Test careers ended.
Smith said he would consider playing a full tournament when he eventually retired from the Australian Test side. "It's a lot easier on the mind and body (than Test cricket)," he said.
"It doesn't take too much out of you. It's definitely something I'll be looking at potentially when I finish up."
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