Australia's cricketers will fly out for a one-day tour of England and Ireland on Thursday knowing that time is running out for a new pay deal to be signed. Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) were due to resume negotiations on Thursday as they aim to find common ground on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the existing agreement to expire on June 30.
If a new MoU is not completed by then, Australia's players will need to decide whether to play on - they will have four ODIs remaining against England in early July - or call a strike. Australia's Twenty20 captain and one-day batsman George Bailey, who is also a member of the ACA executive committee, said the players remained hopeful that they would not be put in such a difficult position.
"The players still have full faith that the ACA and CA will be able to sort out the differences they have at the moment and come to a conclusion," Bailey said. "Whenever there's talk of a strike I think that's very much a last, last resort. It would be a disaster if both the ACA and CA got to the stage where that had to occur. I've still got full faith that both parties will be able to rectify that in the next few days."
It is not just the national players who could be affected by the ongoing failure to reach a deal. State cricketers have been left in limbo, not knowing whether they will have a contract for next season and unable to negotiate a move interstate, as Cricket Australia has banned any player movements until a new MoU is agreed.
That has left a number of domestic players with no choice but to train with their existing state in the knowledge that they might not be part of the squad next summer. Bailey, the captain of Tasmania, said it was a difficult situation for some players, particularly those on the fringes of the state system who did not know what their immediate future would hold.
"There's players who are in a position where they aren't sure whether they should be training because the reality is they might not be playing for Tassie in a few months," he said. "It's that balance of should they be looking for work or should they be talking to other states, who actually aren't allowed to talk to them at the moment. It's a bit of a challenge for those guys.
"They're probably the guys you feel for most, the guys at the domestic level who are in limbo, not knowing where they're going to be playing, who they're going to be playing for, and the state associations are looking at who they're going to recruit, who they're going to contract. At that level you can understand the state associations are starting to get pretty frustrated and players would be wanting to know what's going on. It's probably less so at the national level."
The Australians begin their tour with a one-off ODI against Ireland in Belfast on June 23, before a five-match series against England from June 29 to July 10. The squad features several men who are returning after spending time out of the national side, including the fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Johnson, neither of whom have played for Australia since the tour of South Africa last November due to injuries.
The allrounder Steven Smith is also back in the mix, having been overlooked since the one-day portion of the South African tour in October. The bowlers will be under the guidance of Ali de Winter, the Tasmania assistant coach, who has been seconded to the squad as temporary bowling coach.