This month’s Australia A tour will almost certainly be the first casualty in cricket’s ugly pay war, while the players’ union has hatched a left-field plan to ensure future tours and the Ashes proceed as planned.
Some 230 Australian cricketers joined the ranks of the unemployed on Saturday, when the previous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) expired.
Players, who are deadlocked with Cricket Australia (CA) regarding the issue of revenue sharing, held an emergency meeting in Sydney on Sunday.
The Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) executive passed 14 resolutions, effectively agreeing to boycott this month’s Australia A series in South Africa unless there is a significant breakthrough in negotiations this week.
Australia A captain Usman Khawaja and his squad will assemble in Brisbane on Monday to train but the prospect of them flying out on Friday appears non-existent.
“It’s not an easy thing to do … but we are very united,” Khawaja told reporters.
“Hopefully something can be resolved, but if it’s not, it’s a tough decision that sort of has to be made.
“Not to go is a sacrifice in some respects but we see the broader picture.”
CA released a statement on Sunday afternoon, calling the players’ latest move “surprising”.
“CA has never, and would never attempt to force anyone to play for an Australian team who is unwilling to do so,” it added.
The ACA also passed a resolution in terms of next month’s Test series in Bangladesh, the ensuing ODI tour of India and this summer’s Ashes.
In the absence of a new MoU, cricketers have discussed the prospect of the union taking control of their playing rights and selling them to CA.
“The venues are all booked. The schedule is there. It’s just a different way to get the players playing cricket,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said.
“Further work would need to be done on it if we don’t get to a resolution soon.
“An agreed MoU remains the clear preference.”
There was a school of thought CA would turn to domestic players on multi-year deals to replace Khawaja and other unemployed stars like Glenn Maxwell in the Australia A squad.
“Our legal advice is they can’t be compelled to tour legally,” Nicholson said.
“There would need to be a significant breakthrough on the key issue of the revenue-sharing model (for the Australia A tour to proceed).”
Skipper Steve Smith, currently in the US, dialled into the crisis talks and spoke with teammates.
“It was a pretty important conversation to be had. Smithy was there to support any decision either way,” Khawaja said.
Nicholson reiterated calls for CA chief executive James Sutherland to enter emergency mediation.
“I haven’t had any direct conversations (with Sutherland since the deadline passed),” he said.
“Absolutely intend to speak to James in the next 24 hours.”
CA, keen to scrap the revenue-sharing model that has governed players’ salaries since the first MoU was signed 20 years ago, has used both carrot and stick in recent months.
“In some respects, yes,” Khawaja said, when asked if CA has attempted to divide players.
“It’s been a weird three months. There’s been conversations had outside cricket which have been quite different to anything I’ve experienced.”