Exhibition matches on cards as Australian cricket pay war heats up

The pay dispute could see stars like David Warner and Steve Smith effectively playing their own matches.

The pay dispute could see stars like David Warner and Steve Smith effectively playing their own matches.

The staging of unofficial exhibition matches involving leading Australian stars is being contemplated as uncontracted players face the looming reality of being locked out by Cricket Australia (CA) and the states.

Time is quickly running out for CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association to strike an agreement on a new memorandum of understanding before the existing pay deal expires on Friday week, with talks between the warring parties having proved fruitless so far.

Two more prominent players, Matt Renshaw and Peter Nevill, on Monday backed the stance taken by Australian vice-captain David Warner, who emerged as a public frontman for the cricketers.

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As many players confront the prospect of being without a contract and an income as of July 1, they have discussed the possibility of putting on exhibition or charity games among themselves if the saga drags on in what they believe would serve as a powerful message that they can continue to play outside the umbrella of Cricket Australia.

While the country's major cricket venues would be unavailable due to the demands of the football codes, Fairfax Media has been told that such unsanctioned matches could be held at suburban grounds.

The extraordinary scenario of Australian captain Steve Smith, Warner and other top players effectively holding their own games outside the sphere of the governing body would cap what has emerged as a major divide between administrators and players five months out from the Ashes  and which threatens August's Test series in Bangladesh.

Relations between CA and the ACA remain so toxic that sources close to the negotiations admit there is next to no chance of a resolution by the end of next week.  Given the nature of the talks there is a belief on the players' side  that CA have no intention to agree a new deal on anything but their terms and are poised to push on stubbornly past the deadline in an effort to break the playing ranks.

However, a CA spokesman said on Monday night: "We're confident we'll have something in place by June 30".

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Warner's declaration that players would hold firm to ensure domestic and women's players were 

included in receiving a percentage share of the game's revenue was endorsed on Monday by former Australian wicketkeeper Nevill and Test opener Renshaw.

"Hearing Dave Warner speak so strongly [on Sunday] was fantastic. He is standing up for all domestic players, male and female. His leadership on the issue has been outstanding," Nevill said. "The players have been really clear this entire negotiation. We are after a partnership for all groups male and female, international and domestic.

"Dave is absolutely correct. The players are determined to maintain revenue sharing.  The reality is that the players become unemployed on July 1st, something that no one wants to see happen. All stakeholders in Australian cricket would like to see Cricket Australia sit down with the ACA and come to terms on an MOU."

While Nevill has had to adjust to life back in the domestic ranks since his Test axing last summer Renshaw, 21, is a recent graduate of state cricket. "Dave's comments are really important in terms of the unity it shows from the top-level players to domestic male and female players," Renshaw said. "It is  important for them to show to that unity and it helps us younger guys know that  this is the way forward."

The first overseas tour to be potentially affected by the pay dispute is the Australia A tour of South Africa next month. Whether there is a resolution or not that squad is likely to be without  NSW batsman Kurtis Patterson, who has torn a hamstring.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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