Australian national cricket team coach Darren Lehmann has admitted that a bitter pay dispute will be a distraction for Australia at next month’s ICC Champions Trophy, but played down a boycott of this year’s Ashes series.
Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) are locked in a tense stand-off over the long-running talks, with vice-captain David Warner warning of a strike during the showpiece series against England, starting in November.
Lehmann conceded the players’ full focus wasn’t on the Champions Trophy in England and Wales, but said he was confident there would be no Ashes disruption.
“I’d hope not as a fan. I’m sure that won’t happen,” he told reporters in Brisbane, adding that he was in regular contact about the issue with Australian captain Steve Smith, who is currently playing for Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League.
“We’ve spoken quite a lot, on many issues,” Lehmann said.
“He’s really looking forward to getting the lads back together. There’s been a lot of emails and text messages around the place. He is (in good spirits]. He’s been there [in India] for four months and hasn’t been home. But he’s ready to go.”
Warner said this week players would not back down from their demand that CA keep its current revenue-sharing pay arrangement, and cautioned that they might walk out on the Ashes if relations became strained further.
Lehmann said he would address the matter once the entire squad for the Champions Trophy was together.
“You have to do that. You have to keep communication open so we know what direction everyone’s going,” he said. “It is going to be a bit of a distraction, there’s no doubt about that.
“Just getting together and working it out is the way to go. There’s no panic it’s just about the two parties getting together.”
CA chairman David Peever has rejected the ACA’s request for the bodies to try mediation.
“While CA absolutely shares your stated desire for a new agreement … it seems extraordinary to be considering the involvement of a mediator before the ACA has attempted to negotiate,” Peever said.
“The approach the ACA has taken in demanding certain preconditions be met before it is prepared to begin negotiations is the fundamental
reason why no progress has been made to date.”
The two bodies have been at loggerheads for more than six months.
CA is determined to scrap revenue sharing after 20 years, saying more funds were needed for the game’s grass-roots initiatives, and that its offer provided handsomely for players.
The ACA is equally resolved to keep the revenue-sharing system, saying the system was not broken and did not need fixing.
The notional deadline is June 30, when the current memorandum of understanding expires. — AFP