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Cricket Australia’s desperate bid to attract box-office players to the under-siege Big Bash may be torpedoed by Steve Smith.
While David Warner is this weekend set to sign a BBL deal unprecedented for a current Australian player to join the Sydney Thunder, Smith has knocked back an approach from cross-town rivals the Sixers.
Steve Smith in action for the Sydney Sixers during 2020.Credit:Getty
“At the moment he has decided not to commit,” Smith’s manager Warren Craig told the Herald and The Age on Thursday. “There is a lot of cricket coming up.”
While Warner is expected to earn at least $340,000 for five games as Cricket Australia attempts to revive the flagging competition, Smith offered to play for the minimum $2000 as an injury replacement for the Sixers last season when a one-day series against New Zealand was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The irony is now that CA is under pressure from new Indian-backed big-money Twenty20 tournaments in South Africa and the UAE, which will clash with the BBL in January, the governing body is belatedly investing about $8 million in the Big Bash, mostly on overseas players.
But Smith’s possible absence and continuing uncertainty surrounding Chris Lynn, the most prolific six-hitter in BBL history, who is considering a big-money offer from the UAE, would rob the tournament of star power.
David Warner on his way to a hundred for the Sydney Thunder in 2011 during one of his three BBL matches.Credit:Fairfax
CA spokesmen claim that “amicable” discussions are taking place with Lynn’s management and did not rule out the possibility of the Queenslander being able to play in the first half of the Big Bash and the second half of the UAE tournament.
However, states contacted by this masthead fear that such a deal would lead to an exodus of quality players from the BBL to more lucrative competitions.
CA claims that Lynn, having been let go by the Brisbane Heat, is a special case given he is a marquee player who does not have a contract in Australian cricket.
International Cricket Council regulations state that players require a non-objection certificate (NOC) from their board for two years after retiring. Multiple cricket sources claim this is a restraint of trade.
Local BBL stalwarts are becoming increasingly concerned that overseas players can earn up to $340,000 for playing the first half of the tournament before heading to the UAE for a deal that could yield another $500,000.
Australian, state and BBL contracts restrict players from competing overseas during the Australian season, meaning most will earn between $100,000 and at most $200,000 for 14 matches plus finals.
Chris Lynn in action for the Brisbane Heat.Credit:Rob Blakers/AAP
CA said Lynn has not applied for an NOC but on Wednesday he was named in the Gulf Giants squad, the team owned by Adani Sportsline in UAE’s International League T20 (ILT20).
CA could have granted Smith permission to play in the BBL last season but handed the decision to the states. Except NSW, the states voted to ban Smith from playing, infuriating already unhappy broadcasters. Smith was nonplussed by the decision.
However, CA claims that last season was unusual because of the pandemic.
Fox and Channel Seven paid a combined $1.18 billion in a six-year rights deal but have been at loggerheads with CA over the lack of big names in the BBL, which was disrupted by COVID during the past two seasons.
Seven is attempting to blow up its $450 million part of the rights deal by taking further legal action against Cricket Australia.
In proceedings filed in the Federal Court during late June, Seven claimed that CA breached its contract relating to quality and standards of the BBL.
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