Australia's players have chosen to withdraw from the Australia A tour of South Africa after there was no material progress made in pay talks between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association this week.
The decision was reached by the Australia A squad - led by Usman Khawaja and Travis Head and also featuring Glenn Maxwell, among others - in Brisbane on Thursday morning after Cricket Australia asked for a determination to be brought forward by a day for logistical reasons.
Players had previously stated, via a series of 14 ACA resolutions at an emergency executive meeting in Sydney on Sunday, to pull out of the tour if no progress was made in talks this week. While CA and the ACA have been in discussions, neither side has been prepared to back down from their opposing views on a fixed revenue percentage model for the next MoU - CA wish to break it up, the ACA to retain it.
"It is with great frustration that with no progress towards resolving the current dispute, Australia A players confirm they will not tour South Africa," the ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said. "This decision is made in support of more than 200 male and female players who are now unemployed, and is consistent with Sunday's ACA Executive meeting resolutions.
"By making this call, the Australia A players have sacrificed their own ambitions for the collective; an incredibly selfless act that shows their strength and overall commitment to the group. All players are deeply disappointed at the behaviour of CA which forces this course of action, given the players would rather be playing for their country.
CA refuse to attend mediation or offer any genuine flexibility in the MOU negotiations. And without mediation it's hard to see how there can be the progress necessary to reach agreement. The players want to make sure all men and women who play the game are treated fairly, and that grassroots funding is not drained by a top-heavy bureaucracy. The ACA again calls on common sense to prevail and for the CA CEO [James Sutherland] to attend mediation."
Legal advice sought by the ACA confirmed that no players are contractually bound to tour even if they have existing multi-year state contracts. As the relevant resolutions stated:
"The players have resolved that, unless contractually obliged, no male or female players intend to play for a Cricket Australia (CA) team whilst fellow players remain unemployed due to the absence of an MOU. All Australian professional cricketers are not obliged to and are unavailable to Tour South Africa as a part of the Australia A team without an agreed MOU."
Responding to the decision, a CA spokesman said the board was disappointed by the cancellation of the tour and indicated all associated costs would instead be diverted to fund grass roots programs. "Cricket Australia (CA) is disappointed that players have today confirmed that they are unwilling to take part in the Australia A tour of South Africa," he said. "CA has never and would never attempt to compel any player to represent Australia at any level if they were unwilling to do so.
"The Australia A tour was projected to cost CA in the vicinity of $250,000 to stage. All funds that can be recouped as a result of not touring will be allocated by CA to the National Communities Facilities Fund. Australia A squad members with multi-year state and BBL contracts will continue to have these honoured.
"Cricket Australia regrets that players have made this decision despite progress made in talks between CA and the ACA in meetings over the past week. These talks included regular communication between CEOs. While a new MOU has not yet been agreed, CA is of the view that these talks should have enabled the tour to proceed as planned. CA will continue to work towards a new MOU which is in the interests of both the players and the game and calls upon the ACA to show the flexibility clearly now needed to achieve that outcome."
Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa, said the host board had contingency plans in the event that CA could not fulfil its touring commitment, which was to feature a series of four-day matches and a triangular limited overs series also featuring India.
"There is nothing at all that we can do about it. We'll have to deal with whatever happens," Lorgat told the Sydney Morning Herald this week. "We are working on plans, it is no big issue for us to make alternative arrangements. We respect what Cricket Australia is working through with the players and we will have to live with the absence of Australia A if it comes to that.
"I was cautioned that the possibility of the tour not happening is real. We are understanding perfectly well what Cricket Australia and the players need to work through."
Australia's next touring commitments are for two Tests in Bangladesh starting in late August and then a limited overs tour of India in September and October. The federal sports minister, Greg Hunt, has stated that the Australian government would be prepared to intervene if the dispute threatened the home Ashes series due to commence in November.