Australian cricket's leadership is open to returning to the option of multi-year contracts for their top players in the wake of the agreement of a groundbreaking coaching deal with Andrew McDonald that will allow him the flexibility to maintain pre-arranged commitments in the IPL and the Hundred.
Earl Eddings, the Cricket Australia chairman, followed his first AGM in charge by agreeing that the rapidly changing cricket world required both better relationships and greater flexibility from administrators, as underlined by the decision to agree to McDonald's preferred terms and so ensure his skills would not be lost to the head coach Justin Langer.
He told ESPNcricinfo that the new dual high performance chiefs Ben Oliver (manager of national teams) and Drew Ginn (manager of high performance) can be expected to look at the option of multi-year deals for top ranked players, a part of the CA contracting system in the first decade of the 21st century but less common following the performance-based recommendations of the Argus review in 2011, and presently a recommendation to the board before the next contract cycle.
"The game has changed so quickly, in terms of the various other options players and coaches both now have, which I think is great for the game," Eddings told ESPNcricinfo. "It gives them an opportunity to show their wares to the rest of the world and Cricket Australia's got to adapt to that as well.
"Have we discussed multiple year contracts? I'm sure our high performance people will be looking at that, and something for them to come back to the board with their recommendations. For Andrew I think it's a great opportunity, as a world class coach, I know he's highly sought after around the world. The fact we've got him as our assistant coach speaks volumes for Cricket Victoria for producing a great coach but also to Andrew for becoming one of the best young coaches in the world."
Pat Cummins, this year's No. 1 ranked CA contracted player, has been a vocal advocate of multi-year deals for the past two years, noting the physical toll on the bodies of fast bowlers in particular that often preclude them from stretching their physiques in search of greater financial returns in the IPL and elsewhere.
"No it didn't happen this year. They just said they weren't offering anyone longer term this year," Cummins told News Corp this week. "I hope [it changes in the future]. You can only ask the question and see what comes of it. Like anyone in your job, you want more than 12 months security always."
The issue is a little more complicated than the players wanting more security and the board wishing only to hand out contractual rewards on a strict year-on-year performance basis. The possibility of players remaining under contract to CA at the end of an MoU period would have been an awkward scenario for the Australian Cricketers Association during the 2017-18 pay dispute, when all players falling out of contract at once played into the union's hands.
Since the Argus review, the offer of multi-year deals to players has become perceived as being used only as a defensive move by CA, as was the case when the former team performance manager Pat Howard offered three-year deals to Steven Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins as the pay dispute was heating up. A different landscape prevailed in the early 2000s, when the likes of Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist enjoyed greater certainty in return for compelling and consistent performances as the world's top team.
Peter Siddle, the most experienced Australian pace bowler currently in national contention, noted that he was given a two-year deal at the outset of his international career in 2008, saying that players would be happy in many cases to enjoy extra financial security in exchange for foregoing additional domestic T20 events overseas.
"We used to have them. I remember my first contract I signed a long time ago, about 11 years ago now, I signed a multi-year deal then," Siddle said. "It was only two years but it did give you at least that second-year sort of guarantee. I think with certain players you could probably look at it. It's definitely something the ACA and Cricket Australia can look to maybe improve on over the coming years because there are players like, especially someone like Patty [James Pattinson], who is in all formats, not just the one format player, you might want to lock him down.
"It gives them the opportunity to keep him out of maybe tours outside of the country, whether it's IPL or other T20 leagues around the world, where they can then control where he goes a bit more. But in saying that the player then wants to be reimbursed a little bit for what he may be missing out on. It is definitely that's something worth discussing. Maybe it's not for everyone. But that's what it comes down to when discussing contracts and deals."