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Steve Smith wants to put payment controversy behind at ICC Champions Trophy

Steve Smith, Australian captain, admitted that the pay dispute with Cricket Australia have affected the players but added that they are currently focussed on the job at the hand - the ICC Champions Trophy

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: May 24, 2017 22:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Timkes, New Delhi
Champions Trophy 2017,ICC Champions Trophy,Steve Smith
Steve Smith- led Australian Cricket Team would hope to do well at the ICC Champions Trophy.(Getty Images)

Steve Smith has a tough task at hand in the coming weeks. The Australia captain will not only be expected to lead his team to glory in the ICC Champions Trophy, starting on June 1, but will also have to keep his players’s focus on the game amid the pay dispute with Cricket Australia.

“Yeah, there’s obviously a few things going on back home, but for us it’s about focusing on our job at hand. That’s to compete in this Champions Trophy. You know, these big tournaments only come round every couple of years, and you want to win them. We’re very much focused on that,” Smith told reporters, when asked about how much the dispute has affected the team.

Read | ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Australia, quest to regain past glory

Smith added that he and other national team players are keeping their faith on the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) for resolving the payment issues.

“I think, if we win, almost certainly it would be really good for the playing group. We’re sticking really strong together. We’re backing what the ACA is doing back home. As I said before, it’s about focusing on this tournament and making sure that we’re entirely switched on,” Smith added.

No Ashes pull out

Smith also played down his teammate David Warner’s comments that the Australian players are mulling a boycott of the Ashes if their demands of a new payment structure are not meant.

“I saw the comments. I certainly don’t think -- you know, of course we want to play in the Ashes, and of course we want everything to go really well there. It’s just about making sure the guys finalise a deal and get the MOU sorted, and then everything will be fine,” he said.

Read | ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Full Schedule and groupings

“There’s certainly nothing from us where we don’t want to play. We certainly want to be playing in the Ashes. Hopefully, they’ll get things resolved soon, and everything will be back to normal.”

IPL experience

On a personal note, Smith had a good time in the IPL with some good knocks which were instrumental in team reaching the final.

“I had a good two months in India with the Indian Premier League and we are really excited about this tournament,” he said.

“England is a great place to play and all the boys are pumped up for this one. We have had a busy schedule but I am feeling really good physically and mentally and things are in a good place. This tournament is a really important one for us. We have a bit of a break after this and have to go as hard as we can to do well,” said the Aussie captain.

Read | Australia’s focus not on Champions Trophy due to pay issue: Darren Lehmann

Bhuvi - the death overs bowler

He also lauded Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished as the IPL’s top wicket-taker.

“Probably the pick of them (death bowlers) throughout the IPL is Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He did a terrific job for Hyderabad. He has done for a few years now. I’d have to say he’s probably up there with the best in the IPL.

But there’s lots of good death bowlers around the world right now. I think we’ve got one of the best on our team with Mitchell Starc. Obviously didn’t participate with this year’s IPL, but we’ve seen him for a number of years now how world class he is at the back end.

‘Want to emulate teams of past’

Smith wants to emulate the Australian teams of the past which have had stupendous record in ICC events.

“Trophies like this only come along every two years so it is a really important series. Australia has a very good record in competitions so hopefully we can keep that up. We want to win it, everybody does, and that is what we are focused on,” he said.

With the IPL and a preceding Test series in India, the Australia ODI side has only recently regrouped, with its last 50-over series having been against New Zealand in February.

It was not to be victorious on that occasion, losing 2-0, but Smith feels there is plenty of scope for people to throw their hats into the ring for a first-choice spot.

The first time to test that out will come in Friday’s warm-up game at The Oval against Sri Lanka, while Australia will also face Pakistan at Edgbaston prior to facing New Zealand in its first match.

‘England a strong team’

And with Bangladesh and host England also in its group, the 27-year-old is aware there is plenty of opportunity for players to step up and make their mark.

“We have got a little bit of time, a couple of matches and a chance for a few guys to bat in the conditions,” Smith added.

“We have a few options to go with, we have got a lot of strong batters in the line-up, and we could go with how they go in the practice matches.”

Smith feels that England will prove to be handful at home. “England is very good at home, it has a lot of match- winners in the side but a lot of other teams are also very good. South Africa and India are world-class, and a lot of the other teams can play very, very good cricket on their day.”

“We’ll play the warm-up games with match intensity. We have not been together for a while so it’s a good opportunity to get into the rhythm of one-day cricket.”

First Published: May 24, 2017 21:15 IST