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Blues pull off McCullum coup

Cricket Australia has defended New South Wales's decision to draft in explosive New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum for Saturday's Twenty20 final, amid criticism from Andrew Symonds that it is "un-Australian".

McCullum, who scored a world record 158 not out off just 73 balls in his Indian Premier League debut last season, will open the batting for the Blues against Victoria.

He will also be able to play for New South Wales in the Champions League in October, should his IPL team Kolkata fail to qualify.

"With the potential losses the New South Wales squad may suffer depending on which two IPL teams qualify for the Champions League, it is vital that we strengthen our squad ahead of that tournament," Cricket NSW chief David Gilbert said.

"Brendon is one of the most dangerous limited-overs batsman in world cricket and will be a tremendous asset to New South Wales in terms of his considerable international experience and the match-winning ability he brings."

The decision has drawn criticism from Australian all-rounder Symonds.

"It goes against the spirit of being Australian I think. That's not Australian to me," he said.

"That bloke (Blues wicketkeeper Daniel Smith) has gone through a fair bit himself and has done well to achieve what he's done and if I was him I'd be absolutely spewing.

"On the other foot I see that Brendon McCullum is a very good cricketer at Twenty20 and what have you, but is that what New South Wales Cricket is having to do?"

The Blues have included Smith in their 12-man squad and may be set to use McCullum as a batsman only.

Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young has defended the move to sign him, saying he should help attract a bigger crowd to the game.

"Yes it is within the rules. The invention of the Big Bash is predicated on a number of theories. One of them is that we're trying to make state cricket far more appealing to the public," Mr Young said.

"We're trying to get more people to tune in and watch, more people to attend.

"And by allowing a limited number of high-profile international players in, it does further sex the competition up."

Simon Keen and Ed Cowan were dropped to make way for McCullum and the return of opener Phillip Hughes from injury.

Mr Young said while Keen and Cowan wil be disappointed to miss out, New South Wales is within its rights to use McCullum.

"It's the team's decision and they make that decision at a state level," he said.

"On balance the invention of this competition has given a lot of Australian players an opportunity to develop skills, profile and have an opportunity for international prize money than otherwise would have had an opportunity."

Pakistanis Younis Khan, Tanvir Sohail and Umar Gul have played state cricket this season and Australian captain Ricky Ponting said international players help lift the standard of the game.

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