Sydney Sixers have scolded the banning of Steven Smith from the BBL finals as a nonsensical move that is "sad for cricket".
Smith's application to play for Sixers in Saturday night's qualifying final against Perth Scorchers has been rejected by Cricket Australia. Other BBL franchises voted against allowing Smith to play in the qualifier, a decision rubber-stamped by the CA.
Smith, who captained Sixers to a title in their inaugural season, wasn't on the franchise's playing list this tournament given the star batter was expected to be unavailable due to international commitments. The postponement of Australia's limited-overs series against New Zealand opened the BBL door for Smith.
But the CA says allowing Smith to play for Sixers would have breached rules put in place two weeks ago regarding replacement players for squads hit by Covid-related withdrawals.
CA introduced a local replacement player pool (LRP) from which all franchises must pick any fill-in - had Smith been placed in that pool, he would have been available for any BBL franchise. Scorchers have already been docked a competition point for breaching this rule.
"In creating the central LRP pool, it was agreed that clubs would not be able to contract LRPs from outside the pool for the remainder of the season," CA said in a statement on Friday. "This request was denied ... noting that other players returning to the BBL from international duty have been retained on club lists throughout the competition."
Several of Smith's Australian Test team-mates, including Nathan Lyon, Travis Head, Alex Carey, Scott Boland and Jhye Richardson, have returned to their BBL clubs and will play in the finals - but they were all contracted by their franchises for the tournament.
Sixers captain Moises Henriques says the ruling defies CA's desire for the BBL to feature the best Australian players.
"You have got a former Australian captain, one of the best players in the world," Henriques told reporters on Friday. "You have got IPL teams who pay multi-million dollars just to have this guy as part of their franchise. Advertising, bums on seats, eyes on TV's - I mean, you do the math.
"And we're saying no because of a rule that is two weeks old in some Covid bubble hub. To me, I don't get it. We're in the top two without him ... so I have got absolute belief in our domestic talent and local talent to do the job. I think it's sad for cricket, that's all."
Henriques understood "how those mistakes were made initially two weeks ago" when drawing up the replacement player rules.
"What I do respect is that they [CA] have kept rolling with the punches - and I just can't see why they don't keep rolling with the punches now," he said. "Mistakes are going to be made and the wrong calls are going to be made, but sometimes we also have to keep moving forward and stay flexible."