Image courtesy of: Zimbio
The Australian players may be embroiled in a pay dispute with Cricket Australia, but captain Steve Smith has said that his side are focused on the Champions Trophy.
The threat of potentially not being paid after June 30 will definitely be something the players will have at the back of their minds, but with Australia beginning their campaign against New Zealand at Edgbaston on Friday, they will have to forget about the off-field issues and concentrate on trying to get off to a good start at the Champions Trophy.
Australia have won the Champions Trophy on two occasions – in 2006 and 2009 – but none of the players in the current side were part of those triumphs.
With that in mind, Smith made it clear that the national team are hungry to taste Champions Trophy glory once again.
“For us, we’re focusing on this tournament,” he said. “Obviously there are some things going on in the background. But for me it’s about focusing on this tournament.
“These tournaments only come around every four years – or two years, with the World Cup – so these are the big tournaments and the ones you really want to win. My focus is on that and I’ll let the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) handle everything else outside of that.”
Smith and the rest of his team-mate are no doubt well aware of what is transpiring back home, but when questioned about both parties saying that they are looking out for grassroots cricket, the 27-year-old said: “I think if we look back at the last MoU, players gave back $10 million to grassroots cricket, which is quite significant.
“We’re certainly looking to do the same sort of stuff in this new agreement. ACA is handling that and I’m sure they’ll come to an agreement soon.”
Smith also admitted that his side have to quickly get into the ODI mindset again as many players are coming into the tournament after having featured in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
To make matters worse, Australia’s warm-up match against Pakistan on Monday was washed out after just 10.2 overs.
“It takes a little bit of time, I think,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing a lot of white-ball cricket, so I guess that helps. You just have to realise that 50 overs is a lot longer than 20, and you can rein things back in and know that you can bring the gear back down a bit, but also have the gear to go up at the back end of the game or if you want to take someone on.
“It’s taken a few guys a little bit of time to bring their games back down a level, not try and overhit the ball, particularly in England. It’s a place where the outfields are so fast and you don’t have to actually overhit it. The guys have been working on that.”
Having played New Zealand in two Chappell-Hadlee series over the past six months, Smith admitted that the Black Caps could pose a serious threat if the weather conditions favour the bowlers.
But, on the other hand, the same can be said about Australia, especially if they pick the pace quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.
“They’ve got some good new-ball bowlers who can swing the ball around and if there’s a bit there, we’ll have to be quite watchful,” Smith admitted. “Quite often here, you look up and if it’s cloudy it can do a lot more.
“If it’s a nice sunny day then it’s probably going to be good for batting, and if there’s a bit of cloud about then perhaps the ball might be able to shift in the air a little bit and get a bit of assistance off the wicket. That’s probably something we’ll have to sum up.”
Should the conditions favour the batsmen though, Smith wants his side to replicate their success against New Zealand when they whitewashed them 3-0 in the Chappell-Hadlee series on home soil in December last year.
In those three matches, Australia posted scores of 324, 378 and 264, largely thanks to Smith and opener David Warner. However, both players missed the return series in New Zealand in January-February this year, which the Black Caps won 2-0.
“If the sun’s out and it’s good batting, hopefully we can put a bit of pressure on those guys and try and play the way we did in Australia against them,” Smith said. “I thought we played really well there and then going to New Zealand, a few players were missing but we were probably a bit disappointing there.”