Steyn's BBL stint blocked by Cobras
Brisbane Heat have been left irate at the revelation that Dale Steyn will miss his return bout with Ricky Ponting in the BBL after the Cape Cobras withdrew his permission to play at the last possible moment.
Instead of flying from Perth to Brisbane ahead of the Heat's match against Ponting's Hobart Hurricanes on Sunday, Steyn will return home in order to play for the Cobras in a domestic limited overs semi-final on the same day.
Having signed Steyn up for the one-off fixture six weeks ago and secured a no objection certificate from the South Africa board, the Heat are understandably angered by the loss of their big-name signing a mere four days before curtain-up at the Gabba.
"We conducted all of our negotiations with Dale and his management in good faith and fulfilled all requirements that the BBL needed in order to sign him as one of our international players,'' the Heat general manager Andrew Blucher said.
"We provided signed contracts, a NOC that was provided six weeks ago by Cricket South Africa and were completely up front in what we proposed.
"We now find ourselves less than a week out from the opening game without a key element of our pre-game preparations and that is terribly disappointing for the team and our fans and members, who were eagerly anticipating seeing Dale play.
"Dale is also unhappy with this outcome. He was looking forward to the match, and of course has a very good relationship with our coach Darren Lehman.
"He and his manager are embarrassed and upset about the way things have turned out, considering we were crystal clear with what we had communicated to Cricket South Africa.
"We would have imagined that CSA and the Cobras would have consulted and worked out the various scenarios that would have been involved. For that not to happen is quite extraordinary and highly unprofessional."
The Cobras' unwillingness to allow Steyn to play for the Heat only emerged in the aftermath of South Africa's win in the third Test in Perth, as it became apparent he might be available for their domestic commitments. The batsman Faf du Plessis, who is due to take part on the semi-final for the Titans, will play in the BBL tournament opener for the Melbourne Renegades on Friday.
Jacques Faul, the CSA chief executive, expressed regret at the episode. "We regret having to withdraw the NOC. We are not in a position to determine which teams will be involved in the final play-off matches at the end of the competition," he said. "Players and their agents also have a duty to consult with the home franchise in this regard.
"We have an obligation to our local sponsors and franchises to play the Proteas wherever possible. We will also consider withdrawing a NOC due to workload management or safety reasons.If Cobras were not in the play-off, I am sure it would not have been a problem. We apologise if the one-off match in Australia caused so much drama. In future it might be better not clear any players in our season,in the past we have aimed to help where we can. We also advise players and agents to first negotiate with their home franchise. I have explained this to [Cricket Australia CEO] James Sutherland during our meeting in Dubai.
"We are thankful for the support of our sponsors and cricket supporters who have the right to see the best in the world play in the domestic competitions. If you assess the number of players from SA playing outside the country and the number of NOC's we issue, it is clear that we acknowledge the opportunities available but unfortunately have to balance this with being fair to local sponsors.
"In saying all of this ,we have to admit that releasing the initial NOC was a mistake, we should have waited to see who is in the play-off. We apologise for that."
Cobras' coach, Paul Adams, said the matter was a straightforward one for the franchise: "It's simple. I want the best bowler in my team [to play] this key play-off game."
Lehmann said he would now attempt in the little time he has remaining to find a replacement international player for the match. "We had a spot free so while it is quite late in the piece, we had looked at some contingency plans with a few players in the event we had something like this happen," Lehmann said. "We'll get on the phone and email and see what is possible."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent.