The real reason Australia must beat England at the Champions Trophy

Gene Efron Roar Rookie

By , Gene Efron is a Roar Rookie

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    Does anyone care about the Champions Trophy? (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

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    Good teams are respected by their opponents on the field, and subsequently invite them into their dressing rooms for a celebratory beer. Great teams are respected by their opponents on the field, and invite them for a beer at the commencement of their career.

    Between battles, they do not let down their guard. They remain constantly focused and vigilant. The commonality that great teams share is that they all have a vision. They are relentless, persistent and long-term strategists. Their internal strength is that they understand their priorities greater than their opponents.

    Above anything, they are salespeople. They are cunningly deceiving. “We’re taking this one week at a time”, “We’re only focused on the next match”… bulls#%t, Steve Smith.

    The Australian cricket team is coming off two of its mightiest challenges in recent history. A vitriolic and enthralling Test series against India on the much-feared subcontinent, and a off-field encounter – which has been no less intriguing – between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association over a pay dispute.

    In both encounters the result has been predictable, the journey unlikely, and the setting quite familiar.

    Australian cricket has a history of pay disputes, stretching back to World Series Cricket, when the Australian Cricket Board failed to contract players or paid them embarrassingly poorly.

    The Indian cricket team is of course no stranger to conflict with Australia (isn’t that right, Andrew and Harbhajan?).

    This weekend, the Australian cricket team faces another challenge. To remain in the hunt for the Champions Trophy they must defeat old foe England.

    England, fresh off an election, will finish top of Group A, regardless of the result. Australia cannot hope for more British weather, a draw will not suffice. Victory is a necessity.

    But while David Warner blasts Ben Stokes through midwicket and Mitchell Starc castles Joe Root – oh how delightful that would be – their sights must be well beyond this tokenistic tournament.

    These 50 overs – weather permitting – are not a battle for the Champions Trophy, although all signs would suggest that it is. For Australia it must be nothing less than an Ashes prelude.

    A chance to leave a mental scar in the collective minds of the enemy, who tour our shores in less than six months’ time. An opportunity to leave a few bruises, to see them blink first, to catch a subservient smile, all of which is just a gentle reminder of what is to come: nothing but a teaser, a tester, a canapé for the main course.

    This is where Pat Cummins can give a friendly warning to Moeen Ali that touring opponents who bat sixth-drop simply do not hang about. This is where Glenn Maxwell can begin to wear down Liam Plunkett, ball after ball, effort after effort, without battering an eyelid.

    This match is an opportunity for Steve Smith to look beyond the meaningless possibilities that await them in the competition. It is a chance for Smith to progress from being a great player with a good team, to a great player leading a great team.

    All successful countries, all successful businesses and all successful sporting teams have long-term plans. Compelling leaders outwit voters and provide an aura of a get-re-elected focus; convincing CEOs demand that this week is pivotal in the scheme of the companies’ history; and good teams will focus whole-heartedly on the upcoming match.

    But, only great teams will understand the broader ramifications of what they are really playing for.

    Steve Smith will lead his team out to face England in Edgbaston. If he is a great leader, Mitchell Starc will believe he is running in from the Stanley Street end.