Melbourne: Australia's captain Michael Clarke does not believe the nation's cricketers are making unreasonable demands of Cricket Australia in their ongoing pay negotiations. Clarke and his one-day side flew out for England on Thursday with the looming possibility that their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cricket Australia will lapse during the trip, if a new deal is not struck by June 30.
That would place Clarke in the unenviable position of leading the Australian side through a potential player strike, a scenario that neither the players nor Cricket Australia want to see happen. But as negotiations were set to continue between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), one or both parties will need to concede ground to ensure a deal is done by the end of the month.
The ACA believes Cricket Australia's proposal to change the definition of cricket revenue could leave the players worse off, but the board maintains the players will receive more money as a result of the alterations. James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, said last week the players would be $80 million better off over a five-year period under the new proposal.
"That was news to me," Clarke said of the $80 million figure. "One thing I do know about the players is we're asking no more than what we've had. We believe the most important thing is giving back to this game, not just for the players that are playing today but for the future of the game. We want what's fair. We want the game to continue to be the number one game in this country and hopefully in the world. As captain of the Australian team we will do whatever it takes to make sure this game continues to grow. We're asking for nothing more."
"Hopefully it will be sorted sooner rather than later, for all parties. I think there's a meeting scheduled tomorrow with (Cricket Australia general manager of team performance) Pat Howard and (ACA chief executive) Paul Marsh ... The last thing we want to do is go on strike. I don't want to miss any cricket for Australia. I think it's best for everyone the sooner it gets done the better."
As well as the disagreement over the way cricket revenue is divided, Cricket Australia's push for performance-based player contracts was also a sticking point in negotiations, although one that appeared more likely to be resolved. Clarke said the existing system already rewarded and punished players based on their output.
"I believe our contracts are already performance-based," Clarke said. "We have 25 contracted players; 90% of those guys are on one-year contracts and if you don't perform in that 12 months you no longer have a contract, so you're looking for another job."
Australia play an ODI against Ireland and one against England before the June 30 MoU deadline. A further four ODIs against England are scheduled for the first two weeks of July.