Brisbane’s big name signing has opted out of the Big Bash League days out from the Heat’s first game, citing concerns over the upcoming COVID bubble as the reason.
Englishman Tom Banton has been granted a release from his contract and will return home when his current tour of South Africa ends.
Banton has been in cricket “bubbles” since July, taking part in the lucrative IPL before arriving in South Africa as part of England’s ODI and T20 series.
“It has been harder than I thought spending so much time in the hubs and bubbles and I came to the realization that it wasn’t doing me much good,” he said from South Africa.
“I know the Heat looked after me really well during the BBL last year and I was confident that they would understand when I spoke to Boof and Lynny about going home to regroup.”
Banton smashed 223 runs at a strike-rate of 176.9 for the Heat last season.
His withdrawal is another blow for the Heat, who failed to lure star AB de Villiers back to Australia due to the impending birth of his third child, and comes less than 24 hours after fellow Heat import Mujeeb Ur Rahman tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Queensland.
Heat coach Darren Lehmann said Banton wouldn’t have “made the decision lightly” and confirmed the club was now searching for a replacement player.
“After speaking with him at length, the best option for him is to head home to his family and loved ones and give himself every chance to recover,” Lehmann said in a statement.
“We back his decision 100 percent and hope he is feeling restored and mended very soon.
“It is a very challenging time for many people and cricket is no exception. There is no normality or work life balance which is so important, especially in elite sport.”
The Heat still have Banton’s English teammate Dan Lawrence on its roster and former South Africa paceman Morne Morkel, who now qualifies as a local player.
The BBL10 starts on Thursday with Hobart taking on the Sixers in the opening clash at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.