Crunch talks loom as cricket pay deadline nears
MEETINGS on Wednesday and Thursday could decide the immediate trajectory of cricket's pay war with the deadline for a new deal less than three weeks away.
After coming together for the first time last week, members of the negotiating teams for Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association were urged to end the icy stand-off and find common ground.
Beyond the clear dispute over a preferred pay model for the next Memorandum of Understanding, with the current deal set to expire on June 30, it's believed both parties share a lot of similar ideals.
And it's those shared beliefs around things such as the importance of including female players and identifying ways to generate extra funding for grassroots cricket that could hold the key to both groups forging their way forward and towards a new pay deal.
It's understood CA boss James Sutherland was part of talks late last week before he flew to the UK for a series of meetings being held by the International Cricket Council both during and after the Champions Trophy one-day competition.
Sutherland is not expected to increase his involvement in the pay talks, being run for CA by executive general manager Kevin Roberts, but the chief executive did express his desire for the lines of communication to re-open.
Despite being in Birmingham for Australia's final pool game against England, which the Aussies lost badly, Sutherland did not address the players directly on the MOU talks.
Senior players, including vice-captain David Warner, last week expressed frustration at some tactics from CA, which included the release of a video that portrayed the players as taking money from junior sponsorships, at the expense of grassroots funding.
But the rhetoric of recent weeks, which has created a frosty relationship between CA, the ACA and the players, who will be unemployed on June 30 if a new deal is not signed, has not altered the view that an arrangement, if only a heads of agreement, can be reached by the end of the month.
Several Australian contracted players, including Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell and Travis Head, are expected to front up for an Australia A tour of South Africa as early as July 7.
That looms as the first flashpoint for the dispute with the likelihood temporary contracts will be required to ensure those selected players don't have to break ranks with their peers.
Such temporary arrangements are back on the table despite claims from Sutherland in May they would not be considered.
Flexibility has become the buzzword from both CA and the player's union and the conciliatory tone has provided growing hope the impasse will be breached.
For his part Head, who made a dashing 71 not out in his only innings at the Champions Trophy against England at Edgbaston on Saturday, said he fully expected to turn out for the A tour, after a short break at home.
"I'm really excited about the A series," Head said.
"It gives me an opportunity to prove myself in four-day cricket. I get to captain the side in the one-day format, I'm looking forward to that opportunity.
"I feel comfortable at the minute that it's all positive."