Australia captain Steve Smith insisted his side would remain on their game in a must-win Champions Trophy clash against England despite a bitter pay dispute with their own board.
Cricket Australia (CA) has threatened not to pay contracted players beyond the June 30 expiry of their current financial deal if they do not accept a new offer.
That has in turn led David Warner, Smith’s vice-captain to argue that if the players don’t have a contract then they won’t be able to take part in the showpiece home Ashes Test series against England starting in November.
And Thursday saw the opening batsman accuse CA of undermining the team’s bid to win the Champions Trophy, a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international sides, with their negotiating tactics.
Australia need to beat England if they are to reach the semi-finals after suffering two no result washouts in their previous group games.
England, by contrast are already through to the last four and Smith knows his side cannot afford to have their minds elsewhere if they are to end a run of 12 matches with no win at Edgbaston across all formats since 2001.
Asked about the impact of the pay dispute on his side’s preparations, Smith told reporters at Edgbaston on Friday: “We’re not worried about that at all. We know the ACA (Australian Cricketers’ Association) is handling that back home.”
“For us, it’s about concentrating on this tournament — and tomorrow (Saturday) is a big game for everyone in this group.”
World Cup champions Australia suffered a group stage defeat by England at Edgbaston in the 2013 Champions Trophy and Smith added: “The Champions Trophy only comes around every four years, and it’s the second biggest tournament after the World Cup, so we’ve got to be focused on that.”
Smith’s side contains several proven match-winners and the skipper said he expected his team to raise their game on Saturday.
“Obviously, it’s a must-win match for us … essentially a quarter-final,” said the star batsman.
“That usually does bring out the best of the Australia cricket team in big tournaments. So let’s hope that is the case tomorrow.” said Smith.
Australia beat England easily en route to winning the 2015 World Cup but an admiring Smith said: “I think they’ve come a long way.”
“We’re certainly going to have to be at our best if we’re going to beat them.” Meanwhile England captain Eoin Morgan has labelled Saturday’s match his personal equivalent of the Ashes.
The former Ireland batsman does not expect to add to his tally of 16 Test caps, with the Middlesex left-hander’s international focus now firmly on white-ball cricket.
“I’ve been in a position where I haven’t played in Ashes cricket” said Morgan. “If you never get to play in an Ashes game, this is the closest you will ever get to beating an Australia team.”
Although his side are already into the last four, Morgan sees Saturday’s match as important staging post on the road to the 2019 World Cup in England.
“If we’re looking to win this tournament and go beyond and win the World Cup, we need to be beating the best sides in the world — and Australia at the moment are one of them,” he said.
As for the Australia pay dispute, Morgan — who like Warner has played in the lucrative Indian Premier League — joked: “We’ll have a whip round! I don’t think Dave will be short (of money). “