Sean Cary, a key figure in the introduction of day-night Tests and primary link with the Australian Cricketers' Association, has quit his post as Cricket Australia's head of operations in order to take up a job with the United States Tennis Association.
CA staff were informed of his impending exit at the start of this week, just as talks between the board and the players are reaching a critical stage ahead of the June 30 expiry of the current memorandum of understanding. Cary's decision also adds intrigue to the future of Cary's boss, the team performance manager Pat Howard, whose own contract expires at the end of June.
Having previously played Sheffield Shield matches as a seam bowler for Western Australia, Cary served at CA for seven years, initially as umpires manager, before being promoted to head of operations, a position reporting to Howard.
Cary's experience in the game made him a vital counterpoint to Howard's rugby background, and his ability to work with all arms of the game were writ large across his tireless efforts to encourage the development of the Kookaburra pink ball for use in the inaugural day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand in 2015. He also oversaw subsequent tweaks to the version used in last year's meeting between Australia and South Africa - both matches held at Adelaide Oval.
Other changes to the game that Cary oversaw included the change to the Shield points system, the move of the domestic limited-overs competition to a tournament format at the start of the summer, and the experimental use of the Dukes ball in the second half of the 2016-17 season.
All the while he has been the CA executive most often in contact with the ACA, ahead of other more senior figures like Howard and the chief executive James Sutherland. Cary earned respect for negotiating through the many doubts the players held about the use of the pink ball, while also offering a moderate perspective on the pay debate.
The gap between the board and the players appeared to widen on Wednesday when The Age reported an unnamed CA source questioning the ACA's ability to represent the players effectively. However a CA spokesman was at pains to underline the board's willingness to keep talking. The two parties' next meeting is set for Friday.
"We are looking forward to continuing discussions with the ACA in a further meeting this week and progressing towards finalising terms for the next MOU," the spokesman said. "As we have previously stated, we're absolutely committed to a partnership with the ACA, and our players and we welcome robust discussions to ensure the longevity of the sport within Australia, but also want our players to have security come June 30."
Cary, who will be employed by the USTA as senior director - professional tennis strategy, officials and pro circuit, joins the former head of finance Kate Banozic, the former head of commercial Mike McKenna and the former head of events Chris Loftus-Hills among executives to have quit CA over the past 12 months.