On Monday morning (July 31, 2017) an email hit my inbox. It was a press release from the media wing of the Cricket Australia, in which they announced the schedules of the upcoming edition of the Big Bash League (BBL). Both the men’s and women’s version of the tournament will be held simultaneously with the Ashes and according to that release the organisers expect the travelling English fans to join the carnival.
Well, under present circumstances, out of the blue, how can the board release the schedule of an event, which includes all the top cricketers in Australia? Until Saturday night, the members of Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketer’s Association (ACA) were not on the same page regarding the terms of the much talked about Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the board and countries top 230 men’s and women’s cricketers, who are currently unemployed. Cricket Australia simply cannot host a high-profile tournament with the freelance cricketers.
So, has the dispute been resolved, overnight?
It was a shockingly surprising development for me. Shocking because, despite following the ugly, uncivil war between Cricket Australia and ACA for the past few weeks, I might have missed the climax. But, from the point of view of an admirer of this great sport, I was pleasantly surprised that finally, Australia will come to Bangladesh for the much-anticipated Test series.
But, is the war actually over?
Anthony Everard, the Executive General Manager of Events and Leagues of Cricket Australia, in the press release had given a hint of that.
“We know the MOU is still being finalised, but we are confident this won’t affect the upcoming BBL and WBBL season, and we’re looking forward to welcoming a huge number of travelling fans who are coming out for the Ashes. This will help them plan their ultimate summer in Australia,” this particular quote of Everard made me believe that Cricket Australia has announced the fixtures of BBL and WBBL in anticipation of the fact that MoU will be finalised, pretty soon.
I, then, came across a report of The Daily Telegraph which mentioned, “Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and his Australian Cricketers Association counterpart Alistair Nicholson have agreed on all key terms and are set to announce at a joint press conference as early as Tuesday that at long last, a pay deal has been reached.”
However, the report did not rule out the possibilities of a ‘last-minute spanner’. Probably it was a precaution, especially after the official website of Cricket Australia published a report, which mentioned the reports of a verdict on a new MoU could be announced on Tuesday as “premature”.
“Only a monumental last-minute spanner in the works could derail a final agreement being signed off now after both parties were last night working feverishly on finalising the very last details and aiming for a declaration to be made today [Monday, which did not happen], or at the latest tomorrow, in Melbourne,” The Daily Telegraphy copy added.
“Despite or perhaps due to the imminent threat of court arbitration, the Ashes have been saved and Steve Smith – who will appear on Fox Sports’ Back Page program on Tuesday – will all but certainly be leading his Test team to Bangladesh in late August,” the report explained further.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt from credible sources that representatives of CA and the ACA have remained involved in exhaustive discussions in Melbourne for the past few days. Pace in dialogues came after Sutherland said in a media conference last week that a “hard deadline” needed to be imposed to resolve the issue.
On last Thursday, he further said that if a head of agreement on a new MOU could not be reached “by early next week” then the unresolved issues should be sent to independent, mutually agreed arbitration – a situation which both parties want to avoid.
However, after studying the recent media reports, it has been understood that the players will get a significant amount of financial flexibility in the new revenue sharing model. Meanwhile, both parties are currently maintaining extreme secrecy regarding further details of the new MoU.
The ACA’s other non-negotiable term was to the issue of back paying the cricketers who have been contract-less since the last MoU expired on June 30. It has been learnt that Cricket Australia has also been willing to make this compromise.
Thus, it seems both the camps are rushing towards a resolution at a rate of knots. If insider’s words are to be believed, both Cricket Australia and ACA will hold a joint press conference on Tuesday to announce an official end to this epic dispute.
Get ready Bangladesh, the Aussies are coming.
I might sound premature, but in all likelihood, the series will go on as per the original schedule.