Contingency planning to prepare for the possibility of a severely affected home summer has forced a delay in the release of Cricket Australia's annual contracts for men and women, with state and Big Bash League contracts also uncertain.
Contracted players were informed on Friday that the annual contract rankings for the national teams will be held off until April 30, affording CA, the states and BBL clubs additional time to work through the many possible scenarios that are currently before them. These range from a minimally impacted home summer to the kinds of major interruptions currently afflicting the winter football codes in Australia and the northern summer in England.
CA's financial situation is strong enough to ride out the current off-season without too much change, but things could rapidly deteriorate if scheduled home fixtures, starting with the men's Twenty20 World Cup in October and November, start to be pushed back. As such, the governing body and the Australian Cricketers Association are working on a range of plans for different possibilities, with the revenue-sharing model that is at the heart of player contracts one of several key financial deals being examined - annual grants to state associations are another major issue.
"We had some communication late last week around the contracting and that's on pause for the moment," Australia's women's captain Meg Lanning said. "I think April 30 is the cut-off time for them to name the contracting list, but given the uncertainty around what's happening around the world at the moment, I suppose it just makes sense to take a minute to take a breath and work out what we're dealing with and what potential impacts it might have for the game moving forward.
"There could be an impact on a lot of people and it's hard to know exactly what that is going to be. CA has been working with the ACA and they're trying to give us as much clarity as they can on the contracting and what that might look like. At this stage that should be coming out by the end of April, there's a clause that means that date will happen unless otherwise agreed. We're still expecting that to happen and in terms of the impacts next season, the season after that, it really is just wait and see.
"It's a very fast-moving situation and new information's coming to hand each day and things are changing each day, so I've got no doubt there are a lot of people working on the different scenarios and trying to make sure the game is in as good a shape as it can be after this virus passes. Hopefully we can get the summer underway on time, but it's just about waiting and seeing what happens."
Lanning has two other playing commitments currently up in the air - she is at the end of a three-year deal to play WBBL for the Perth Scorchers, and is yet to decide whether to stay with the club or move elsewhere. Additionally, Lanning was one of numerous Australian players who put their hand up to take part in the women's IPL - a "challenge" among four teams over seven matches alongside the playoffs of the men's IPL - that is now in doubt due to the global pandemic.
"Early on we got asked if we wanted to participate and I'd said yes," Lanning said. "But since that point we haven't heard a lot and obviously there's been a lot that's happened since then and a lot of unknowns. At this stage it's looking very unlikely, we haven't had a lot of communication around it from anyone in India, so it's a bit of wait and see, but i think at this stage probably expecting it not to go ahead.
"I'm not sure at this stage [about WBBL], I really enjoyed my three years in Perth, they're a great club, really well run and Shelley Nitschke's now the coach there. I'll just have to have a look at what I want to do, but it has given me a little bit more time to think about it and work out."
One thing Lanning is hopeful about is that the pressure and pain currently being experienced by the global sports industry will not unduly push back the momentum gained in women's sport in general and cricket in particular. In Australia, the women's game only recently moved to full professionalism, an investment by CA in line with growing broadcast audiences for the women's game at both international and WBBL levels.
"There is a little bit of concern around a lot of sport and a lot of things around the world, given that everything's pretty much come to a stand still," Lanning said. "I think we've done a lot of good work [with women's sport]. Cricket's been leading the way but all the other sports, with females involved as well, have really been doing a lot of groundwork to get the pathway programmes in place, allow younger people to get involved in the game and fans to be involved as well. So I think there's still been a lot of good work done, and that won't all be lost, but there's certainly going to have be a fair bit of innovation done to make sure we do keep that momentum going.
"Women's sport is in the same boat as everyone around the world and unfortunately we'll have to stall for a little bit, but I think sport's a massive part of culture around the world and definitely here in Australia, so there's certainly an appetite for that. Hopefully once we do get back on track, we can keep building."