Kim Hughes, the former Australian captain, fears an impasse between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) continuing past the June 30 deadline would be catastrophic for the sport Down Under and has urged the bickering parties to “get on with it”.
The clock is ticking for a resolution over the pay dispute engulfing Australian cricket with the current Memorandum of Understanding expiring at month’s end. Relations have hit a nadir between CA and the ACA with the fallout being played out publicly.
CA has told players they won’t be paid from July 1, if a resolution was not struck forcing disenchanted cricketers to retaliate and threaten boycotting playing for their country, leaving Australia’s proposed tour of Bangladesh in August and the Ashes in jeopardy.
Hughes, who captained Australia in 28 Tests from 1979-84, warned that a cynical Australian public would not tolerate a continual deadlock and believed everyone involved had much to lose. “The public won’t accept it if there is a boycott of players and the Ashes is at risk,” he told Cricbuzz. “I think the public would turn on the players, CA and the sport itself. It just can’t go down that track and it will be unacceptable if there is no resolution.”
Hughes said both parties had merits in their respective arguments but believed “stubbornness” was the catalyst for the breakdown in negotiations. “There seems to be a pigheadedness about it and it’s not a good look for cricket,” he said. “I can see the point of views from both sides, as the players want something fair and reasonable but there aren’t too many businesses around the world where you get 20-25 per cent of the revenue.”
Parallels have been made about the current situation to Australian cricket’s landmark pay fight 40 years ago, which led to World Series Cricket and a revolution of the sport. Still early in his international career, Hughes remained with the establishment – then named the Australian Cricket Board – instead of signing with Kerry Packer’s breakaway group.
However, Hughes dismissed links between the pay disputes. “Absolutely none,” he said. “Stars like Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh were earning a pittance and there is just no comparison to what today’s players get paid. They (ACA and CA) need to get into a room and get on with it. The Australian team is on the cusp of a great era so we don’t need all of this.”
Right now, the issue threatens to derail Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign, which starts on Friday (June 2) with a tricky encounter against New Zealand in Birmingham. The two-time Champions Trophy winners are one of the favourites although there remains an air of uncertainty over how Steve Smith’s men will respond amid the ongoing saga.
Hughes was confident Australia would not be affected by the pay dispute. “The players will get on with the job but if we don’t do well (at the Champions Trophy) then you can bet the pay dispute will be blamed for being a distraction,” he said.
Hughes believed Australia was one of four teams vying for the silverware. “On paper, I think Australia, South Africa, England and India will make the semis,” he said. “I think Australia has the firepower particularly with their quicks but I don’t think they should play the four of them. The pacemen can leak runs and I think (James) Pattinson will be the one to miss out.”