The Sydney Sixers have done everything in their power to get Steve Smith back for the BBL Final, but the legendary cricketer has been denied permission to play.
The injury-ravaged Sydney Sixers have lashed the “very frustrating” confirmation that Steve Smith won’t be permitted to make a hero’s return in the BBL Final on Friday night.
Sixers coach Greg Shipperd revealed on Friday morning that the club had its latest attempt to bring Smith back for the match against the Perth Scorchers rejected.
Smith has played his entire BBL career with the Sixers but a rule created on January 10 meant he was unable to be selected, as he was not contracted this summer.
BBL teams are only permitted to select injury replacements from a small pool of local replacement players, unless an exemption is granted.
Shipperd admitted the call was difficult to swallow, especially in the face of the side’s injury woes.
“Administrators (have) made a decision on technical issues in a season that’s required flexibility,” Shipperd told RSN.
“The players have delivered it; we’re not getting it in return. It’s very frustrating.”
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Shipperd said his troops were determined to press on and realise their dream of a third-straight title.
“We’ve been very brave all season, and we’re the walking wounded at the moment … but we’ll fight on,” he said.
“Whoever takes the field for us today will limp through and give their best account.”
On Thursday, captain Moises Henriques confirmed Sixers cult hero Jordan Silk would miss the BBL final in a “huge loss” for the depleted side, but said he and Steve O’Keefe were likely to play through the pain.
Meanwhile, the Sixers’ bitter rivals, the Scorchers, are sitting pretty ahead of the decider at Marvel Stadium and have guaranteed Mitch Marsh will shake off a hamstring injury in time to play.
The Sixers have been decimated by Covid-19 and injury concerns at the worst possible time – Daniel Hughes (ankle), Josh Philippe, Mickey and Jack Edwards (Covid-19) all missed Wednesday’s narrow win in the Challenger, while Henriques, O’Keefe (calf) and Silk (hamstring) have all pulled up sore.
But Henriques said he was no risk of missing the Final, and that O’Keefe also looked a chance to play.
“I’ll definitely be able to, I daresay my bowling will be at a minimum, unless absolutely desperately needed,” he said.
“I think Sock (Steve O’Keefe) is okay.”
On Friday morning, Shipperd said Hughes was at even money to play and that his ability to field was of more concern than his batting.
“He’s desperate,” Shipperd said, “I’m sure he’ll be needled up for the game.”
The prognosis isn’t so rosy for Silk.
“I don’t think Jordan will be able to get up, to be honest,” said Henriques.
“He won’t be manageable in the field or running between wickets, unfortunately for Jordan.”
Silk’s elite fielding and grace under pressure will be sorely missed against the red-hot Scorchers.
“It’s really disappointing,” said Henriques.
“He’s been such a big player for us over the last few years, especially in finals, so it’s a huge loss for us.
“We’re obviously trying our best to get him up and ready to go, but it’s looking like at least a couple of weeks for him, maybe even more. Unfortunately, it’s one of those injuries. It’s not good.”
While the Sixers are reeling at the loss of Silk, Scorchers captain Ashton Turner said Marsh would certainly play in the Final.
His ability to bowl, however, remains under a cloud.
“He’s definitely playing,” Turner said.
“Not sure about bowling, but he’s definitely going to play as a batter at least, at the bare minimum.
“He’s moving pretty well.”
Despite the dramatic difference in the sides’ fortunes, Henriques said the Sixers wouldn’t be spending the day of their do-or-die final feeling sorry for themselves.
“I think unfortunately, it’s just been one of those seasons where I don’t think we’re the only team that have had these issues,” he said.
“Other teams have all at some stage had to battle on with something along these lines.
“But that’s just part of the game and we’re trying to do our best to roll with the punches.”