Steve Smith appears unlikely to feature in the Big Bash League this summer in a massive new blow for the struggling competition and Cricket Australia.
Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head confirmed their returns to the Brisbane Heat and Adelaide Strikers respectively on Thursday, but Smith has reportedly baulked at an offer to suit up for the Sydney Sixers.
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According to Nine Newspapers, Smith has knocked back on offer from the Sixers to play in the BBL for the first time since 2020.
Smith’s manager Warren Craig told the Herald and The Age: “At the moment he has decided not to commit. There is a lot of cricket coming up.”
Smith was at the centre of controversy in the last BBL season when Cricket Australia blocked him from playing for the Sixers in the finals.
The Sixers thought Smith wouldn’t be available for the entirety of the competition and therefore didn’t sign him to a contract.
But with New Zealand cancelling their ODI series in Australia due to Covid-19 complications, Smith was suddenly free to play.
But CA blocked the Sixers’ request for Smith to play in the finals after the other state associations voted against the move.
CA has invested about $8 million into the Big Bash for this summer, desperate to lure the world’s best players to the country in the face of competition from new T20 leagues in the UAE and South Africa.
Chris Lynn has already turned his back on the BBL in an attempt to sign with the UAE competition, while David Warner had flagged his interest in doing the same.
But in a much-needed boost for CA, Warner now looks likely to stay in Australia after being offered a monster contract with the Sydney Thunder.
Cricket fans were left stunned by the news regarding Smith.
Cricket Australia are not sure about Steve Smith or David Warner. 2 greats of the sport but have they been treated poorly by the admin of the sport. Shocking really
— Dan Smith Zampa Stapleton (@Dan_Stapo) August 18, 2022
Is this what we bookmark for when the Sixers make the final and people complain that Smith can’t play?
— Andrew Donnison (@Donno79) August 18, 2022
Last year Sixers rejected
Now Steve Smith rejected#SteveSmith
— Yaseen Shaik Jr NTR follower🐅 (@Ur_YaseenYM49) August 18, 2022
Test opener Usman Khawaja will play for the Heat this season after moving from the Thunder, while star pace bowlers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will skip the tournament.
Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Cameron Green are the only remaining centrally-contracted players without deals for BBL12.
Labuschagne, currently No.2 in Test cricket’s batting rankings, needs no informing of the packed T20 cricket landscape.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge, so many competitions have popped up,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“There’s two comps in our window now … we just need to value our product and make sure our product is the best to get the best players coming in and playing.
“If we can have that, there should be no issue.”
The under-siege BBL has lost pulling power in recent seasons, but Labuschagne is dreaming of a packed Gabba again later this year.
“Hopefully this year is a big stepping stone to getting our competition back to its absolute best,” he said.
He said he hoped his Test teammates followed him back to the Australian league but that “everyone’s different”.
“This year I think we’re playing something like 16 Tests – that’s a lot for our bowlers to take,” he said.
“And you’ve got people with young families, some with high workloads playing three formats all the time … it’s hard to expect those guys to always be available.”
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