Australia's cricketers "would be silly" to turn down Cricket Australia's proposal for arbitration in their ongoing pay dispute, former captain Michael Clarke has said.
CA had suggested the option last Thursday, with a guarantee of rollover contracts, to ensure the tours to Bangladesh, in August, and India, in September and October, go through unaffected. But the Australian Cricketers' Association was wary of the idea because it could result in "significant" delays to the resolution of the pay dispute. ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said he would prefer to continue negotiations with the board, but will have a final answer on arbitration "by next week".
Clarke, though, felt it important that the players capitalise on a chance to actually spend some time in the middle. "As a (former) player, I'm saying if a deal's not done by Monday afternoon allow it go to arbitration because we need this finalised," he told Channel Nine. "I believe this is definitely going to arbitration, and I think the ACA would be silly to say no to it. The players can't say no. The players have got to say yes because they've got to play."
In the nine months spent deciding on a new Memorandum of Understanding between CA and ACA, one tour has already fallen by the wayside - Australia A's to South Africa - leaving some of the nation's best players with little to no practice ahead of what is expected to be a tough visit to the subcontinent. Bangladesh beat England in Dhaka last year, taking all 10 wickets in a session and similar spinner-friendly conditions might await Steven Smith's men. Facing India for one-day cricket in their own conditions will be a daunting prospect as well.
Clarke felt it imperative that the players face such challenges if they are to be ready to win back the Ashes in November-December. "This team cannot afford to miss one game of cricket if we want to beat England in the Ashes," he said. "We need to go to Bangladesh, we need to go to India for the ODIs, and then we need to play our best cricket to beat England in Australia, which I believe we will if we've played some cricket together as a team.
"The players are not CEO of a business or general manager of a business. That's not their responsibility. This needs to be done between CA and the players' association, and the players need to do what (they) know best and that's to play this game we love."
If a peace deal cannot be brokered between CA and ACA as their chiefs James Sutherland and Nicholson meet again over the weekend, and it does go down to arbitration, Clarke tweeted that the "players will win."
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Australian cricket's immediate future, CA has confirmed that day one of this summer's Ashes series against England - November 23 at the Gabba - was already sold out, with day two close to a sellout as well.