Organisers for the Hundred are sweating on Australia’s selection for a one‑day international series against Zimbabwe which could lead to Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc missing the second half of English cricket’s new tournament.
All three players – as well as the Australia ODI captain, Aaron Finch – were picked up by teams in last year’s draft system for top-level £125,000 deals on the basis they would be available for the entire inaugural season that begins on 17 July.
But now Cricket Australia has informed its contracted players that anyone selected for a three-match home series against Zimbabwe – the dates for which are still to be confirmed – must attend a training camp in Brisbane from 4 August and thus leave the Hundred halfway through.
Warner (Southern Brave), Finch (Northern Superchargers), Smith and Starc (both Welsh Fire) may yet be allowed to skip this low-key series, not least in a year during which short-form cricket takes centre stage with the T20 World Cup on home soil in October and November.
But with a total of 10 Australians dotted around the eight teams, including the big-hitters Glenn Maxwell (London Spirit), D’Arcy Short (Trent Rockets) and Chris Lynn (Northern Superchargers), some disruption looks inevitable.
A spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board said: “We have been in continued dialogue with Cricket Australia over the past weeks as they finalise their schedule with Zimbabwe.
“The Australian players selected in the squad for that series will be asked by Cricket Australia to report back by 4 August. As a result they will be available for the first five or six matches of the Hundred.
“Teams will have the ability to replace players who are unavailable in due course. We will be excited to welcome additional international stars to the Hundred alongside the world‑class cricketers who will be available to play throughout the first season.”
It is understood that replacement players must come from the original draft list meaning player such as Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo, who initially went unsold, may yet appear in the tournament.