It is cricket’s biggest event but this summer’s Ashes series could be vastly different if Australia’s star players follow through on the prospect of a boycott.
With the pay dispute between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) getting increasingly ugly, the likes of David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson have suggested that a player strike against England is a very real possibility.
The comments came after a provocative email from a frustrated CA chief executive James Sutherland, to the ACA and players, hit the headlines, which led to Warner on Monday talking up a potential strike.
“If it gets to the extreme, they [CA] might not have a team for the Ashes,” Warner told Fairfax Media.
“We don’t really want to see this panning out like that … it is up to CA to deal with the ACA,” he said.
“We won’t buckle at all – we are standing together and very strong.”
Former Australia bowler Rodney Hogg told The New Daily: “It’s obvious to say [an Ashes boycott would be disastrous].
“To see the players talking about a strike – it’s clear the negotiation has not been going well for a long period.
“Shane Watson was a really good servant to Cricket Australia … if he has put his five cents in, it’s not been run fairly.
“And Mitchell could have made an absolute fortune by signing his own contract [the left-armer was offered an individual deal].
“He’s gone into bat for the players, though, and you have got to give him credit for that.”
Warner added that “a few boys might go over to play the Caribbean Premier League” and others would head to England to play Twenty20 cricket if the dispute was not resolved.
The current Memorandum of Understanding between CA and ACA expires on June 30 and key to the dispute is the fact CA wants to end the fixed revenue percentage model used for the past 20 years.
In the deal it offered players in March, it did not offer revenue percentage, but increased payment to men and women.
But the players have refused to budge and that led to Sutherland’s email, which threatened players that they would not be paid after June unless they accept the new deal.
Hogg dubbed it complete “aggravation” from CA and said the move only “tipped fuel on the fire”.
ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson issued a response that said the players did not take kindly to Sutherland’s email – a claim backed up by their tweets.
“Clearly, we are disappointed that CA are threatening the players,” Nicholson said.
“It’s also a window into the nature of CA’s behaviour in these negotiations so far. There is incoherence and aggression in what we have experienced at the negotiating table from CA.”
Nicholson, who said the players wanted independent mediation, added that they “will not respond to threats”.
Hogg says Australia’s “top players are paid too much” and wants to see a fairer distribution of the revenue with domestic cricketers in mind.
Social media anger
Quoting a tweet that included a Fairfax article on Sutherland’s email, Starc set the cat among the pigeons when he added a comment of his own.
— Mitch Starc (@mstarc56) May 13, 2017
Watson added: “Well said @mstarc56. It will be an interesting game of cricket without any players. #fairshare.”
Other players, like Warner and Pat Cummins, added their support with the hashtag.
Ever the stirrer, former England batsman Kevin Pietersen suggested the strike could lead to a big win for Joe Root’s side this summer.
— KP (@KP24) May 13, 2017
Australia’s first men’s series after June 30 is a tour of Bangladesh, which is still not confirmed but likely to be played in August and September.
Our women’s team will be playing in the World Cup through June and July, but players are likely to sign a short-term contract, only for the duration of the event.