Australian cricket’s pay dispute is seemingly unlikely to be resolved before the June 30 deadline but numerous players could be offered unpaid contracts by Cricket Australia (CA) in a late twist to the saga.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday (June 27) that CA will offer five players – Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird and Travis Head – the chance to play for free during next month’s Australia A tour of South Africa. The expenses would be covered for these players, with Bird notably vying for a spot on Australia’s upcoming Test tour of Bangladesh as a replacement for the injured Mitchell Starc. The rest of the Australia A 14-man squad are on multi-year state deals, which are likely to be honoured.
However, CA rejected the claims with a spokesperson declaring no decisions on Australia A’s tour contracts had been made and that CA were 100 per cent focused on reaching a resolution by the deadline.
Despite CA’s insistence, a last-minute breakthrough seems unlikely with Greg Dyer, the Australian Cricketers’ Association president, saying on Tuesday that it was “extremely likely” a resolution would not be forthcoming.
With a resolution unlikely by June 30, CA could offer ‘series-by-series’ contracts in a desperate bid to ensure the Bangladesh tour and the Ashes go ahead although players are unlikely to accept that temporary measure, according to a Cricbuzz source.
Shane Watson, the former Australian star, said CA would not be able to stop players seeking other employment if a resolution was not struck. “If CA knock back an NOC (No Objection Certification) that’s a significant restraint of trade as well,” he told reporters in Sydney. “In the end, I’ve got a Big Bash contract. Of course, I’ve got to get a NOC signed. For them to restrict my potential to be able to play and be employed somewhere else, there would be some pretty serious legal issues there.”
Ed Cowan, the former Test batsman, queried the validity of multi-year state contracts, which were signed under the current Memorandum of Understanding. “They don’t mean much, do they,” he said. “They’re contracted but if they’re not being paid, there’s no obligation to then fulfill those contractual obligations.”
Meanwhile, players will not be locked out of training and medical facilities even if a new pay deal is not struck before the deadline, according to a report by Fairfax. It would mean that unpaid elite players, such as Steve Smith and David Warner, can continue to train but only state-based players on multi-year deals would continue to be remunerated unless they decide to strike.