Lehmann sits on fence in pay dispute
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has strong views about the fixed revenue percentage model that the players are presently battling Cricket Australia to retain in the next payment MOU. But he's not going to air them publicly.
Lehmann, a former player delegate and president of the Australian Cricketers' Association and now a highly-paid employee of CA, sat firmly on the fence ahead of the national team's departure for England and the ICC Champions Trophy - the last tournament to take place before the June 30 expiry of the current pay deal.
Though he acknowledged that the dispute would be a distraction for the players over at least the next six weeks, he doubted the Ashes would be disrupted, saying "I wouldn't think so, and I would hope not as a fan". Most of all, he stressed the importance of the two parties re-opening effective, respectful communication to get a deal done.
"Both parties have got to get talking, that's what they've got to do," Lehmann said the day after CA rejected the ACA's request for independent mediation. "Once they get that they'll get a deal done, and once that happens we'll be right and get the game going the way it should be.
"What I want to do is see both parties come to the table and get a deal done for the betterment of the game. From the grass roots right through to the elite cricketers. From a players point of view they're sticking together, we support players and support CA. Everyone supports each other, it is just a case of getting a deal done."
Communication has been a hallmark of how Lehmann has coached Australia, and he has continued that theme during the dispute. He has discussed matters at length with the national captain Steven Smith during his IPL stint, and also indicated that he would open the floor to players to discuss matters together when they convene in England, for the start of a campaign that leads ultimately to the 2019 World Cup and Ashes double.
"It is going to be a bit of a distraction there's no doubt about that," Lehmann said. "But at the end of the day we're there to concentrate on the cricket, we've got to do the best job we possibly can so from my point of view they've just got to get talking, simple fact of life. They're both adults, both will deal with it as best they can and get the outcome right for the game.
"We'll talk about it when we all meet. You have to do that, you've got to keep it open in communication so we know the direction everyone's going. At the end of the day it's about getting ready for that first game and playing well. The next three years we go to England for one dayers the following year and then we've got the World Cup, so it's a pretty important tournament for us in many ways."
While pointing out that negotiations have often run close to the wire in the past, Lehmann admitted he had not seen such acrimony between the two parties since the 1997-98 dispute that ultimately led to the revenue-sharing arrangement that has existed over the past 20 years.
"I was there as a player and a delegate and then president," he said. "You have those issues, every sport has them, so it's just about communication and getting the right outcome for both parties. That's the key. Both sides I'm sure will get there. It traditionally goes quite late, so there's no panic, it's just about those two parties getting together."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig