Cricket 2022: Smith BBL cameo in the balance

The door remains open for Steve Smith to play a part in this year’s BBL, although it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the megastar batter will make a cameo appearance for the Sixers.

Last year’s finalists are set to announce their final roster spot soon, but that won’t rule Smith out for later in the tournament given overseas players Chris Jordan and James Vince are only available for 10 matches.

Smith hasn’t played in the BBL for several years after a possible return during the finals was blocked last season, much to the chagrin of the men in magenta.

Given the Australian Test side finishes its series against South Africa on January 8, Smith and other big names would be available for the back-end of the BBL.

David Warner has already signed a lucrative deal to return to the Thunder, but Smith is yet to commit after he failed to receive a similar offer.

“He’s a very popular, iconic player for the Sixers and we’d love for him to play in the BBL this year,” Big Bash Leagues general manager Alistair Dobson told the NCA NewsWire.

“If that happens, then it’d be great for the competition.

“That said, we’ve got phenomenal lists for each team and we think it’s the strongest group of players across the eight teams that we’ve had in the competition’s history when you look at the depth of overseas players and big-name Australian players that are playing.”

Australia’s packed schedule next year means Test players like Warner and Cameron Green may be limited to a handful of games, while others simply won’t play in the upcoming BBL as they get ready for tours of India and England.

It’s a problem not limited to Australia, with a couple of big-name international stars already ruling themselves out of the tournament, including Liam Livingstone, who was taken with the first pick of the inaugural draft by the Renegades.

He withdrew due to an increased international workload, while fellow Englishman David Willey – who was the Thunder’s platinum signing – has also opted out of his deal.

“We’d love to have seen those two guys play this year, and I know the clubs that drafted them were excited to get them,” Dobson lamented.

“That said, every year there are players whose circumstances change after they’ve been contracted to a BBL team, so it’s not unexpected nor unusual for that to happen.

“What we have seen is that clubs have moved quickly to replace them.

“The Renegades have done a great job of bringing in a couple of high-profile overseas players in place of Liam. The system is set up to allow that to happen, and I think the system worked really well.”

The loss of a couple of big names is a blow but it has been tempered by a couple of veteran stars committing to the tournament.

The Renegades were able to sign West Indian great Andre Russell for the first four matches, while New Zealand’s Martin Guptill will also pull on the red jersey this year.

“They all talk glowingly about the competition they want to play in and that they love coming to Australia to play in the best stadiums in front of the best fans,” Dobson said of the BBL’s appeal to international players.

“We’ve always been really confident that it’s a destination of choice for the players, and it’s up to us to make sure that we make it happen through the right remuneration and schedule, and things like the draft allow us to make that happen.”

One guy who won’t be taking part in the competition is controversial batter Chris Gayle, who wowed fans with a typically brutal knock at an exhibition game in Victoria last week.

“One of the benefits of the draft that we set up is that it’s pretty accessible for everyone, whether it’s players wanting to nominate or clubs trying to get someone in,” Dobson said.

“Chris didn’t nominate for the draft this year.”

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