Steve Smith criticises Cricket Australia over pay dispute
Australia captain Steve Smith has criticised Cricket Australia's (CA) arguments in the ongoing pay dispute between the players and the board on the eve of their first match in the Champions Trophy.
The CA has argued that it cannot increase the players' current salaries as more money is needed to fund the game at the grassroots.
Smith, however, challenged the CA's statement, asserting that the players have chipped in with significant contributions to the grassroots programmes.
"I'm not sure I completely agree with that. If we look back at the last MoU, I think players gave back $10 million to grassroots cricket, which is quite significant," Smith told the media here on Thursday.
"We're right behind (the CA) and what they are trying to do for the players and as partners of the game as well. We fully support them in everything they are doing," he added.
Australia had a poor start to their campaign in the last edition of the Champions Trophy in 2013 when they had lost to England in their first match before crashing out in the group stages.
Smith is keen to avoid a repeat this time round and reiterated the importance of focusing on the job at hand and not giving too much thought to the off-field issues.
"We are focusing on this tournament. These are the big tournaments and the ones you really want to win," he said.
"So my focus is on that and I'll let the CA handle everything else. Every game is crucial and we have got to be at our best from ball one," he added.
Smith also hinted at pace being his primary weapon in Australia's opening match against New Zealand which comes as no surprise considering the quality of resources at his disposal.
Although Smith stated that the playing XI would not be settled until the final training session, he hinted that he might resist the temptation of fielding the four pronged Australian pace battery comprising Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood together.
The Australian captain asserted that he might field an all-rounder in either Marcus Stoinis or James Hastings in order to strengthen the batting line up and add variety to the bowling attack while fielding three fast bowlers.
"We're going to have a look at the conditions in the morning, see what the forecast is like, and we'll decide our final XI then. I don't think we'll end up going with the four big quicks. We've got a couple of options there as all-rounders," Smith said.
"Stoinis did very well in New Zealand in the last series, and Hastings has done very well for us over in these conditions. He's a little bit slower than the others and hits the seam and has some good skills throughout the middle as well," he added.
The only selection dilemma in an otherwise settled batting line up is who amongst Glenn Maxwell and Chris Lynn will get the nod to fulfil the finisher's role.
"If it is good batting and the sun is out hopefully we can put a bit of pressure on those guys and try and play the way we did in Australia," Smith said.
Stoinis injured his shoulder while representing Kings XI Punjab in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL). Smith however asserted that the 27-year-old has been impressive in training and hoped that he will come good in the Champions Trophy.
"It probably doesn't matter a great deal. It's obviously slightly different conditions here to New Zealand, different ground, different circumstances. A few guys are back in the team. So we'll wait and see what we feel is the best option tomorrow," he said.
"He actually felt just as quick as some of the other quicks, to be honest, in the nets. He's coming along nicely."
Although Australia have won nine out of their last 10 encounters against their trans Tasmanian rivals, Smith feels that it will be naive to take the Black Caps lightly considering the resurgence in the fortunes of the team in the past three to four years.
The Australian players will be playing One-Day Internationals (ODI) after a significant gap, having played four Test matches in India before taking part in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Smith asserted that his teammates will have to adjust fast to the demands of the 50-over version of the game as well as to the conditions in England as they try to win the Champions Trophy for a record third time.
"It takes a little bit of time. You just have to realise 50 overs are a lot more than 20 and you can reign things back," he said of the adjustment to ODI cricket.
"It has taken a few guys a little bit of time just to bring their games back down a level and not try and overhit the ball, particularly here in England where the outfield is so fast."