Australian coach Darren Lehmann says cricket’s warring parties will settle their pay dispute amicably and remains convinced a player boycott won’t throw this year’s Ashes series into unprecedented turmoil.
Lehmann spoke as he prepared to depart for England for the ICC Champions Trophy tournament, which will bring Australian cricket’s leading male players together for the first time since the pay dispute escalated.
The Australian Cricketers’ Association and the sport’s governing body, Cricket Australia, remain at loggerheads over the details of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU), which would come into effect after the current pay deal expires.
CA wants to move away from the revenue-sharing model that has served the game for the past 20 years, a stance that has thrown players into an open revolt that has included the threat of a boycott.
“If it gets to the extreme they might not have a team for the Ashes,” said opener David Warner earlier in the week. “We won’t buckle at all; we are standing together and very strong.”
Lehmann believes that’s a bridge too far and while be believes negotiations will go down to the wire, has no doubt that Test cricket’s showpiece series will go ahead as planned.
“No, I wouldn’t think so (that a boycott would happen). And I’d hope not as a fan. I’m sure that won’t happen,” Lehmann said.
The Australian coach finds himself in a unique position during the pay dispute, having both the ear of the players and his employer, CA. He was a former president of the ACA (2006-2009) and was central to previous MOU negotiations.
He said he had his views on the best funding model for the game but was less than enthusiastic to divulge. He did urge both groups to find a way to get back to the table.
“I have my views on that but I’m not going to share it with you guys. I’m literally talking to both players and CA,” Lehmann said.
“I think both parties have just got to get talking. That’s what they’ve got to do. They’ll get a deal done and once that happens, everyone will be right and we’ll move forward and get the game going the way it should be.
“When we first started the ACA, I was part of that as a player, delegate and a president. You have those issues. Every sport has them, to be perfectly honest – there’s sports around Australia having them now.
“It’s just about communication and getting the right outcome for both parties, that’s going to be key.”
He conceded the dispute would undoubtedly be a distraction during the looming tournament but backed his players to perform in what shapes as an important piece on the pre-Ashes build up.
“So for us it’s about concentrating on the game. There’s going to be discussions, that’s the natural way from a players’ point of view and CA’s point of view. And it’s playing out in the media as we know.
“For us we can just concentrate on getting ready for cricket and we’ve got our guys, some in India, some in England, some here. Once we all get together we’ll talk about it and move forward.”