Australia captain Steve Smith has re-emphasised the importance of the ICC Champions Trophy as he looks to maintain the impressive one-day form the country has shown over the past 20 years.
Despite being knocked out in the group stage in 2013, Australia comes to England as double champion in the tournament – lifting the trophy in 2006 and 2009 – while also winning the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015.
Smith’s side also arrives as one of the favourites for the tournament, looking to build on its ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 victory – the last 50-over worldwide competition to take place. This competition marks the captain’s first shot at the ICC Champions Trophy, with a chance to lift his first piece of silverware as captain, a particular one of his aims, come 18 June.
“I had a good two months in India with the Indian Premier League and we are really excited about this tournament,” he said at a media conference on Wednesday. “England is a great place to play and all the boys are pumped up for this one.
England is a great place to play and all the boys are pumped up for this one.
“We have had a busy schedule but I’m feeling really good physically and mentally and things are in a good place. This tournament is a really important one for us. We have a bit of a break after this and have to go as hard as we can to do well.
“Trophies like this only come along every two years so it is a really important series. Australia has a very good record in competitions so hopefully we can keep that up.
“We want to win it, everybody does, and that is what we are focused on.”
With the IPL and a preceding Test series in India, the Australia ODI side has only recently regrouped, with its last 50-over series having been against New Zealand in February. It was not to be victorious on that occasion, losing 2-0, but Smith feels there is plenty of scope for people to throw their hats into the ring for a first-choice spot.
The first time to test that out will come in Friday’s warm-up game at The Oval against Sri Lanka, while Australia will also face Pakistan at Edgbaston prior to facing New Zealand in its first match. And with Bangladesh and host England also in its group, the 27-year-old is aware there is plenty of opportunity for players to step up and make their mark.
We want to win it, everybody does, and that is what we are focused on.
“We have got a little bit of time, a couple of matches and a chance for a few guys to bat in the conditions,” Smith added.
“We have a few options to go with, we have got a lot of strong batters in the line-up, and we could go with how they go in the practice matches.
“England is very good at home, it has a lot of match-winners in the side but a lot of other teams are also very good. South Africa and India are world-class, and a lot of the other teams can play very, very good cricket on their day.
“We’ll play the warm-up games with match intensity. We have not been together for a while so it’s a good opportunity to get into the rhythm of one-day cricket.”
Smith admits that the players have also had off-field thoughts in their mind, hopeful the Australian Cricketers Association can help bring around a solution. But despite the distractions, the batsman remains confident that his team remains fully focused – concentration he believes the players will need if the team has to prevail.
“I will be getting on the job at hand, wherever I am that is my job and I have to be up with every challenge – that’s part and parcel of being a sportsperson.”
Australia start their campaign next Friday against New Zealand
Tickets are still available for Australia’s clash against New Zealand next Friday at Edgbaston and can be purchased via: www.icc-cricket.com/tickets.
Why not treat yourself to hospitality for these two matches? Edgbaston has established itself as the leading cricket hospitality venue in the country after heavily investing in improving the hospitality experience which has seen year on year improvement in customer feedback. Hospitality packages are available for these two matches in our premium Warwickshire Suite. For more information please email Hospitality@Edgbaston.com.