Former Australia captain Adam Gilchrist described Steve Smith's absence from the COVID-19-hit Sydney Sixers for their Big Bash League game on Wednesday as "ridiculous," with Cricket Australia (CA) coming under fire for not finding a way to let him play.
The challenger final in Sydney went ahead without Smith as CA acknowledged it needed to tweak its regulations about player eligibility during the pandemic.
With last week's cancellation of a limited-overs series between Australia and New Zealand, Smith had made himself available to play for the Sixers.
The Australia batter had previously chosen before the season not to sign a deal with the Sixers, thereby freeing up a spot on the team's roster in the domestic Twenty20 competition.
But even though the Sixers squad was hammered by COVID-19 and injuries, Smith was deemed ineligible by CA because replacements can only come from a Local Replacement Player pool, created due to COVID-19 concerns in early January.
"In the past two days, a need has been identified to expand the central Local Replacement Player pool in response to heightened COVID risks in and around the competition," Cricket Australia said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
"After discussions with the Sydney Sixers, it was decided that Steve Smith would not be added to the pool."
CA's decision drew plenty of criticism from current and former players.
Australia opener Joe Burns said on Twitter that it was "crazy" Smith was unable to play, with Gilchrist responding to his tweet that it was "ridiculous".
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan told Fox Cricket that having Smith play would have brought the game so much more attention.
"Smith, a legend of the game, gets a rare opportunity... It's a showcase last five games where you want more eyeballs and to try and get as many people through the gates, and he's not allowed to play," Vaughan said.
The winner of Wednesday's game advances to Friday's final against the Perth Scorchers, a match that will be played in Melbourne due to Western Australia's border restrictions.
Sri Lanka's Mendis, Gunathilaka back from suspension for Australia series
Top-order batsmen Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka returned from their suspensions to make Sri Lanka's 20-member squad for their limited-overs tour of Australia, the country's cricket board said on Wednesday.
The duo, along with Niroshan Dickwella, were suspended last year for breaching the team's bio-bubble anti-coronavirus protocols during their tour of England in July.
Their suspensions were lifted earlier this month and Mendis and Gunathilaka were included in the Dasun Shanaka-led squad which will play five Twenty20 matches in Australia across three venues in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
Sri Lanka are without a head coach since Mickey Arthur's two-year stint ended last month, and the Island newspaper said Englishman Paul Farbrace would succeed him ahead of the team's India tour in February-March.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has named Rumesh Ratnayake as the interim coach for the Australia tour but the former test bowler has tested positive for COVID-19.
"Ratnayake will not travel to Australia with the team but will join before the 1st T20I game, as he is currently in self-isolation," the SLC said in a statement.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera has retired from international cricket but would be available to play domestic games, the statement added.
Australia have rested opener David Warner and all-rounder Mitch Marsh from their 16-member squad for the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka beginning on February 11.
Sri Lanka squad: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamika Karunaratne, Janith Liyanage, Kamil Mishara, Ramesh Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Thushara, Dushmantha Chameera, Binura Fernando, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama
Injured Molineux out of Australian Women's World Cup squad
Injured left-arm spin bowler Sophie Molineux will miss the Women's World Cup in New Zealand after being omitted from Australia's squad for the tournament.
Selector Shawn Flegler said Molineux's expected timeline for recovery from a left foot stress fracture that has kept her out of the Women's Ashes series would have prevented her return until late into the World Cup.
"With limited match time and having to complete 10 days managed isolation, it was a tough call, but we weren't prepared to take the risk," Flegler said.
In Molineux's absence, fellow spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington earned a long-awaited recall. Wellington was the leading wicket-taker in this season's Women's Big Bash League.
"Amanda-Jade provides us with another quality spin option and has the potential to play an important role spinning the ball away from the bat," Flegler said.
Despite the absence through injury of Molineux, fast bowler Tayla Vlaeminck (foot) and spinner Georgia Wareham (knee), Flegler was upbeat about the Meg Lanning-captained squad.
"We've been able to put together a really talented squad with some fresh faces as well as players with significant World Cup experience," he said.
Australia's will open their campaign against England in Hamilton on March 5.
Darcie Brown, Nic Carey, Ash Gardner, Grace Harris, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Meg Lanning, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Netherlands' Kingma gets four-match suspension for ball-tampering
Netherlands fast bowler Vivian Kingma has been given a four-match suspension for tampering with the ball during his side's third one-day international against Afghanistan, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Wednesday.
Kingma will miss his team's next four limited-overs games after breaching level three of the ICC's code of conduct during Tuesday's match in Doha.
"The incident occurred in the 31st over of Afghanistan’s innings, when the fast bowler changed the condition of the ball by scratching it with his nails," the ICC said in a statement.
Kingma, 27, admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by match referee Wendell La Brooy, it added.
Netherlands were handed a five-run penalty, and lost the match by 75 runs as Afghanistan completed a 3-0 sweep.