Australian cricket's warring chiefs met for about four hours on Sunday in the latest effort to find a way to end the damaging pay war, but anger and mistrust between the parties remains a major obstacle to its resolution.
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive, is believed to have asked his Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) counterpart Alistair Nicholson why the players association felt it had been necessary to distribute details of their compromise proposal to all players amid reports that talks had broken down - even though the pair had always been scheduled to meet on the weekend.
For his part, Nicholson has indicated that the decision was based on keeping all players informed of developments while at the same time querying CA on what appeared a less than enthusiastic response to the compromise proposal, which included plans to inject around AUD 30 million (USD 23.8 million approx) of the player payment pool into the game's lower levels.
In seeking a heads of agreement ahead of actually drafting the MoU, Nicholson said that the players association desired to get the process moving again in the knowledge that the full agreement was likely to take months to be completed. And a resolution of the basics of the dispute would allow the players and CA to resume preparations for looming obligations of both a commercial and cricketing nature, namely deals with sponsors and broadcasters plus tours of Bangladesh and India ahead of a home Ashes series.
"The previous MoU took almost 18 months to draft following an in-principle position being reached by both parties," Nicholson said. "Reaching in principle agreement is what the players have attempted to do this week as a way of breaking the deadlock and not jeopardising any more cricket. The players in the latest ACA offer have moved a long way. We are seeking the same kind of movement from CA."
Following the meeting, a CA spokesman said that discussions were productive. "Cricket Australia will not comment on details of the negotiation but productive discussions were held today and progress is being made on a range of issues," he said. "We have been in constant communication with the ACA and we are expecting further meetings on the negotiation to continue over the coming days."
Given how little time remains before the dispute would cause major dislocation to the game, CA is eager to speak of progress being made in order to prevent the confidence of commercial partners - both actual and prospective - sinking any further. However the ACA would appear the party more likely to benefit from a sense of chaos, pushing CA into a corner from which it must back down from its previously stated intent to end the revenue sharing at the heart of each MoU since 1998.
Nevertheless, both sides of the argument stand to lose out in the event of an extended dispute, because the total amount of money in the game is bound to shrink without the confidence of broadcasters, sponsors and also other national boards. Relationships will take a long time to mend, where they can be salvaged at all.