Steve Smith has taken a cheeky pot-shot at his Aussie Test teammate Marnus Labuschagne after horrible scenes for the Brisbane Heat player in the Big Bash League (BBL) on Wednesday night. Smith is gearing up to make his return to Australia's domestic T20 competition with the Sydney Sixers this weekend, and he's tempted fate by taking a swipe at his good friend's efforts in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
Smith and Labuschagne are among nine members of the Test team that played against South Africa who are making cameos in the BBL before the Australian team heads to India for a four-Test series. Smith will make his long-awaited return to the Sixers on Sunday evening, one of four games the former Test skipper will play for the side.
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Speaking to reporters on Thursday ahead of his return this weekend, Smith joked about what he could offer the Sixers with the ball, after a mixed showing against South Africa with his part-time leg-spinners. Smith couldn't help but take a crack at Labuschagne's own part-time bowling cameo in the Brisbane Heat's loss to the Perth Scorchers on Wednesday night, when he was belted for 20 runs off his one and only over.
“Did you see the last over I bowled in Sydney?” Smith joked. “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.”
Smith said he was looking forward to getting back into the shortest format of the game after a three-year absence from the BBL. The competition 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.
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."
Australia leaves for India on January 31, leaving just enough time for a potential finals appearance in the BBL for Smith depending on how the Sixers fare in the competition. 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.
Steve Smith plans to keep playing for some time
Smith sent a shock through the cricket world after admitting during the South Africa Test series that he's not sure how long he has left at the top of the sport. However, the 33-year-old says he has no plans to retire anytime soon, and predicted the BBL would be a natural transition for him when his Test career does eventually end.
“It’s a lot easier on the mind and body (T20 cricket). 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.”
David Warner is another of Australia's Test stars who rejoins the BBL after a lengthy absence. The Aussie opener - who has been one of the leading run-scorers in the Indian Premier League - has not played in the BBL for nine seasons.
Ahead of a busy year of international cricket, Warner says the decision to forgo nights at home with the family to play in the BBL was not made lightly. As well as the tour of India, the Aussie Test side also has as Ashes series in England to look forward to later in the year.
"If you're playing all three forms (for Australia), you've got until November away," Warner said. "Me and my family have been through that and it's very challenging."
As well as money, another solution to boosting the star-power of the BBL could be signing players who have already announced their retirements from Test cricket. Aussie legends Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Brett Lee all played in the BBL in its infancy after their Test careers ended.
Warner, who hasn't played in the BBL since the summer of 2013/14, admitted he had expected he would only return to the tournament at a similar point in his own career. "I thought more towards my retirement, at the back end (would be when I would play again)," he said. I always had plans to do that."
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