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 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.