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01 October 2023

Australia captain Smith plays down talk of Ashes strike

Pic: Reuters

By Reuters

Australia captain Steve Smith has played down a tense stand-off in pay negotiations between the players' union and the national cricket board, saying his team is highly motivated to cut a deal and play the Ashes against England.

The Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) has rejected an offer by Cricket Australia (CA) which waters down a revenue-share arrangement that the players have enjoyed for 20 years.

CA has dug in its heels, saying players would not be offered alternative contracts if they failed to agree to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, with the old one set to expire on June 30.

Smith said players were supportive of the ACA, who were "working really hard with CA to get a deal right", but he backed away from opening batsman David Warner's remark that Australia might not have a team for the Ashes starting in November.

"I saw the comments... Of course we want to play in the Ashes, and of course we want everything to go well there," Smith told media in London ahead of the Champions Trophy.

"It's just about making sure the guys finalise a deal and get the MOU (memorandum of understanding) sorted and everything will be fine.

"There's certainly nothing from us where we don't want to play, we certainly want to be playing in the Ashes so, hopefully, they'll get things resolved soon and everything will be back to normal."

The ACA on Wednesday said it had set up a company to manage and market player image rights and intellectual property if the pay negotiations failed to produce a deal by the deadline.

Smith said the venture had the players' support.

Both sides have blamed the other for the impasse but the ACA has requested CA agree to mediation to get back to the negotiating table.

The players' union said their first request was rebuffed by CA but the board was considering a second request, ESPNcricinfo reported.

"We're expecting (a response) to come potentially this week. We need to respect their response," the cricket website quoted ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson as saying.

"We exchanged phone calls and emails in regard to timings on that. There's contact on operational issues, but we need to respect their negotiation position, and we'll wait until we see that."