It’s taken months of mudslinging, cantankerous clashes and revenue-sharing rancour but finally there is cause for optimism in Australian cricket’s protracted pay saga.
Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) burnt the midnight oil on Sunday, fuelling hope this week would bring a resolution.
Intensive and productive negotiations continued in person on Monday. The early indication was they would run late into the night again.
It is a pointer the warring parties realise the urgency of a crisis that has the potential to affect upcoming tours of Bangladesh and India plus this summer’s Ashes.
It’s understood there has been genuine progress in meetings, although both sides of the bitter spat remained mute on Monday.
It is in sharp contrast to the unedifying tit-for-tat that continued despite the expiration of the previous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) a month ago, which left 230 players unemployed.
A Heads of Agreement is far from a fait accompli but it could be signed by the governing body and players’ union as early as Tuesday.
That document would ensure Australia tour Bangladesh in August and clear the cloud hanging over the sport.
The next major deadline is August 18, when Steve Smith’s side are set to depart for a two-Test series in Bangladesh.
Smith and his teammates reaffirmed last week they will not tour without some form of agreement in place.
Backpay could be one stumbling block. The governing body has repeatedly declared it won’t pay players for their continued work during the period between MoUs, something the union views as unacceptable.
The elephant at the negotiation table is CA chief James Sutherland’s desire to send the dispute to arbitration if there is no deal in place soon.
In the absence of a peace treaty, Sutherland wants a retired Supreme Court judge to hear both sides of the spat and put an end to it by ruling on any unresolved articles of the new MoU.
Sutherland could try to start that process early on Tuesday if talks hit a wall, or wait until Wednesday.
The ACA is yet to formally indicate whether it would agree to arbitration, having made repeated calls for independent mediation this year.
There remains a distinct possibility that CA and the ACA will start arguing over the best mode of dispute resolution, something that will only further infuriate disillusioned fans and other stakeholders.
Former captain Michael Clarke claimed on Sunday it would be “silly” for the union to reject arbitration.