'This is a very risky time for the game worldwide'
At a time that searching questions are being asked about the relevance of international cricket, SA Cricketers' Association chairman Tony Irish said Cricket Australia (CA) could be feeding the Twenty20 beast if they don't accede to their players' association demands.
CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association are at war over a revenue-share model in place for 17 years. The parties' hard-headedness in dealing with the matter could help the growth of the already burgeoning Twenty20 market. More than 230 Australian players are now out of contract with their mother body.
With Twenty20 tournaments set to occupy more than half of a year from next year, the impasse could prompt a mass international exodus that could leave test and one-day international cricket on the periphery.
"It's a very risky time in the cricket landscape to do the kind of thing Cricket Australia is doing because you have two distinct markets developing in cricket. One is the international cricket market that's always been there and the market for players in the T20 leagues. That includes the Indian Premier League and the other leagues mushrooming around the world," Irish said.
"Players can also actually ply their trade in these other markets and it is important for the boards to keep their international players. This type of thing doesn't help with that, it only helps to alienate players and it's a time when the board should be fostering its relationship with players."
Irish said his association and Cricket SA also have the same revenue-share model agreement in place that is renewed every four years. The current deal is up for renewal next year, with Irish saying it allows players to be partners in the game rather than employees.
"The players are simply saying they want to continue as partners in the game because the revenue-share model makes you a partner in the game instead of being an employee. You have a stake in the game as opposed to being a worker," Irish said.
"It's also a case of CA trying to break up the players' association because there's been a history of them trying to deal with the players directly while the players are legitimately represented by the association. One also has to understand that the revenue sharing model is seen as the best practice around the world and that's what other professions strive for."
Irish said CA's unexplained need to reinvent the cricketing wheel could put the cricketing world in a difficult place, especially with Australia embarking on what could be a defining cricketing summer. While their headline act is the Ashes series, there are tours of Bangladesh and South Africa either side of their quadrennial summer showpiece that could be negatively affected by the current impasse.
Australia A's tour of South Africa that was supposed to start this week has already been cancelled as the players were not considered to be under CA's employ as from June 30.
With Australia competing with England for the second spot behind India's cash flush but dysfunctional Board of Control for Cricket, Irish pointed out the Australian players from the six states and the women's players don't want a bigger slice of the revenue, but a continuation of what they're accustomed to.
"One hopes the impasse is resolved before the Ashes because they still have to go to Bangladesh before they host England. The Bangladesh trip could be the first one affected but one hopes that could be resolved before that tour comes around," Irish said.
"It's also important to understand that the players aren't asking for or demanding anything new. They're asking for the same model that's been there for the past 17 years to continue. The Australian board wants to change everything. Players could devote their time to playing T20 cricket and skip international cricket. The new cricket landscape allows for that."