Uncertainty ends, cricket begins

After months of standoff between the ACA and CA, the Australian team can finally focus on the cricket when it takes on Bangladesh in a two-Test series.

Australia has not played a Test in Bangladesh since 2006, and will have to perform out of its skin to overcome a spirited opponent in its own backyard.   -  Getty Images

After dragging their heels for over a year, Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) have finally reached an agreement over the protracted pay dispute, which left nearly 230 Australian cricketers unemployed for nearly two months.

For Steven Smith and his men, this is good news as the team readies itself for a two-Test series against Bangladesh, followed by five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20s against India between September 17 and October 13.

Australia has not played a Test in Bangladesh since 2006, and will have to perform out of its skin to overcome a spirited opponent in its own backyard.

Not helping is the perceived lack of practice owing to the deadlock. Last month, the Australia A team boycotted its South Africa tour in a first of its kind player-led snub. With the team in transition, the tour comprising four-day and limited-overs fixtures, presented an opportunity to those on the cusp of national selection.

Players prepared

But former Australia batsman Michael Hussey thinks pre-season training was not affected by the bitter disagreement. "I don't think so, no, and the reason I say this is because some of the players, like Warner, were quite vocal about it but most of the players just put their trust into the ACA to do all the negotiations and players could just concentrate on preparing for the next series coming up," Hussey told Sportstar.

"I personally think the players will be a 100 per cent focused and well-prepared for the Bangladesh series. It (pay war) wasn't a good look for cricket, either for the players or for the administrators but thankfully now, the deal is done and we can get on with the real stuff of playing cricket," he added.

Echoing the sentiment, an ACA spokesperson said, "The dispute didn’t impact the training schedule at all because the entire playing group made the decision early on to continue training with their states and tour parties, despite not being paid. This decision means every player in Australia is as well prepared as they can be for the upcoming summer of cricket."

After a series of negotiations, the new Memorandum of Understanding was finally agreed upon earlier this month. While this means the clouds of uncertainty looming over this year's Ashes, starting November 23 at The Gabba, are now cleared, the spokesperson added, "We have to make sure that a dispute like this never takes place in Australian cricket again. The outcome has been a fantastic one for the game but it should have never taken this long to come to fruition.

"The players need to continue to be seen as partners with the game for the betterment of cricket in Australia, so this is something that needs to be carried future MoUs as well."

Issues ‘overlooked’

However Gerard Sholly, who manages Australian all-rounder James Faulkner, feels neither party walked away being completely satisfied. "But that is the reason we have negotiation," he said adding that, "I have a concern that because the “revenue share model” became the centrepiece of the discussion, many other issues may have been overlooked. We have yet to see the final document so I will reserve opinion for the moment."

With both stakeholders ironing out the kinks in the new deal, it is believed that the final document will be completed "within the next four to five weeks." In the meantime, Sholly is reserving his judgement on the new MoU, while highlighting concerns some players have, around "fixtures, scheduling, selection process, domestic competitions, contracting process, upgrades etc. "

The players may have continued to train as normal, but Sholly reckons the dispute had a bearing on their intrinsic motivation. "I think the players have not been affected physically... However, whilst negotiations were continuing to drag on, I think mentally it must have an impact on the players, and their training was probably a little less motivated than it would be with the matches and tour dates confirmed," he said.

‘Excited’

Speaking of Faulkner, who is in the Australia squad for the India tour next month, Sholly said, "James is very excited to be back in the Australian squad. He has been working hard to get his body back to full fitness following some injury issues over the last 12 months.

"As such, his preparation has been very meticulous and was really incidental to the MoU discussions. What I can say is he has now recovered and looking forward to performing again at the high level we have come to expect."

Since winning the Chittagong Test in 2006, the men in baggy green have won only two of their 22 Tests in the Asian subcontinent, losing 15 and drawing five. It’ll be suffice to say, when the first ball is bowled at Dhaka's Sher-e-Bangla stadium on August 27, cricket will take centre-stage for Australia, again.