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Pay deal a knockout win for players, but not grassroots cricket

Cricket

Australian cricket’s pay war has been won by players, according to Allan Border, but there’s a question mark over the future of the game’s grassroots.

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Cricket Australia (CA) and Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) came to an in-principle agreement late yesterday after almost a year of talks.

The deal guarantees state and international players will pocket up to 30 per cent of an estimated $1.67 billion of revenue over the next five years, with women included on the same Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as men for the first time ever.

Players will pocket almost $500 million over the next five years, while female player payments will increase their stake from $7.5 million to $55.2 million.

The deal also includes up to $30m for grassroots but former Test captain Border conjectured if that was a win for the game.

“The players have had a huge win,” Border told Fox Sports.

“This has been a TKO in the 15th round for the players. They should be very happy with the situation, particularly the girls.

“I can’t quite work out grassroots cricket, what’s going to change?

“They still go out there and do their chook raffles and fundraising events and nothing much has changed as far as I can tell.”

Former Test fast bowler Ryan Harris, who’s now a performance coach with CA, stressed the importance of the grassroots not losing out under the deal.

“Number one thing is probably getting the facilities up the scratch,” Harris told SEN radio.

“Being around grade grounds in Brisbane, even grade grounds aren’t up to scratch.

“We’ve got to make sure that money goes directly to where it has to go.”

The Bangladesh Cricket Board has expressed relief after the agreement, which will allow this month’s Test tour of the country to proceed as planned.

Players took the unprecedented step last month of boycotting an Australia A tour of South Africa and were prepared to take the same action for the Bangladesh series.

“It’s great news for Bangladesh. Definitely we are very happy to see the problem has resolved,” BCB boss Nizamuddin Chowdhury was quoted as saying by AFP.

“Their next commitment is in Bangladesh. Now after the dispute is resolved, we can look forward to hosting them.”

Australian captain Steve Smith admitted negotiations were challenging but is now focused on the cricket that lies ahead.

“It’s been a long and challenging process and it’s great that we can now get on with playing the game that we all love,” he tweeted.

“I’m excited that we can all start working together again to continue to grow our great game.

“I look forward to Bangladesh, India and an exciting summer of Ashes cricket.”

ACA president Greg Dyer says the sport must ensure there is no repeat of the acrimonious pay spat that threatened to bring it to its knees.

Talks between the union and governing body were never amicable and rarely private. There was no shortage of mudslinging and revenue-sharing rage that bubbled publicly between the warring parties.

“Like anything worthwhile it’s been hard to achieve,” Dyer said.

“Yes, we’ve arrived at a great place but the game must never again take this same route.

“The players did not choose this route and did not enjoy being on it. In fact, the players resented it deeply.

“This was not a fight the players started. The players defended themselves as is fair and as is their right.”

Next week, when the Test squad assembles in Darwin for a training camp, will be the first indicator of what the partnership between players and CA is now like.

CA chief executive James Sutherland’s late intervention was both the catalyst for peace and perhaps the greatest bugbear in Australia’s bitter cricket pay dispute.

Sutherland declared yesterday it was not the time for post-mortems, but his decision to take a largely hands-off approach during months of bitter negotiations left many players frustrated and is likely to have contributed to a loss of trust between the warring parties.

This was nothing new for Sutherland, who had delegated responsibility during the early stages of previous negotiations.

But with his ACA counterpart, chief executive Alistair Nicholson, describing Sutherland’s involvement as “critical” to the deal being finalised, the CA chief may come to regret not coming to the table sooner.

“It’s probably not a time for post-mortems, or to reflect too much on that,” Sutherland said.

“In time, we’ll reflect a little bit on that, including my involvement.

“But I think we’re very happy to be up here, relieved and happy, and looking forward to getting cricket back played in different parts of the country.”

While the long-anticipated deal ensures the Bangladesh tour goes ahead – and October’s limited-overs tour of India and the summer Ashes series will proceed as planned – it was too late to prevent the boycotting of an Australia A tour of South Africa last month which would have allowed Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell to audition for spots in the Test side.

Usman Khawaja and Ryan Harris at an Australia A training session in Brisbane ahead of the abandoned tour. Photo: Glenn Hunt / AAP

With former skipper Michael Clarke recently describing the pay dispute as “horrible” for the game, Nicholson said it wouldn’t be easy to fix the damaged relationship between players and administrators.

“Is it repaired? I think that will take some time,” he said.

“But that’s something we’ll now work through together for the good of the game.”

-AAP

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