Ice broken as Cricket Australia meets with states, players

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Australian cricket's iciest winter thawed ever so slightly on Thursday as Cricket Australia, its state association owners and players association partners resolved to set aside a host of differences in order to stage a challenging coming season in the time of Covid-19.

The meeting of the Australian Cricket Council, a collective of CA's chairman Earl Eddings, his state association counterparts and also the Australian Cricketers Association chairman Greg Dyer, was held via video link and concluded with the telling note that the group will convene again a mere two weeks from now. Given that it was last assembled back in October 2019 in unimaginably different and calmer times, that alone is an achievement.

Since the conclusion of the 2019-20 summer, CA and the states have squabbled endlessly over issues of finances, coronavirus contingencies and communication, in a conflagration of discontent that has seen some 200 staff axed from the game, not least the former CA chief executive Kevin Roberts and a handful of other senior figures. CA's board has seen the exit of Michael Kasprowicz, while Jacquie Hey's exit is also set to take place later this year.

Nominations committee discussions for the board, which will see Paul Green from Tasmania and Richard Freudenstein of New South Wales also up for re-election in October, feature Eddings, Tasmania's chairman Andrew Gaggin, the New South Wales chairman John Knox and, after Kasprowicz's exit, the Queensland chairman Chris Simpson.

Anger among the states has at times reached the sort of mutinous level at which change to the very structure of the CA board has been mooted, with the suggestion that the current system of nine independent directors be replaced by a hybrid of six direct representatives for the states and three independents.

Eddings, though beneficiary of a wellspring of goodwill not shared by his ex-CEO Roberts, has at times been scrambling to keep his head above water amid a host of parallel issues at ICC level.

Politically, Eddings has been able to stay afloat by keeping a majority of the states from pushing for open revolt, even as Queensland and NSW have maintained a position of opposition, specifically to CA's requests for cuts to state distributions worth almost A$130 million between them but also to broader themes of command and control. An August 31 election for board directors to Cricket Victoria may see this power balance alter again.

At the same time, an agreement reached with the ACA to pause revenue calculations that influence player payments, until more is known about the state of the game's finances for the summer of 2020-21, was valuable in calming the noises emanating from an organisation with a proud history but also a well-developed sense of when to go on the defensive.

Nevertheless, it is the onset of the season itself that was always likely to shift idle minds to the bread and butter work of preparing for cricket, even at a time when Victoria remains in hard lockdown and other states are extremely wary of not doing likewise.

Meeting attendees on Thursday were briefed on CA's rich range of scenarios for the summer, while also given re-affirmation that the governing body is committed to staging full international and domestic schedules including the Sheffield Shield in its entirety.

Rather than cutting back the schedule pre-emptively, plans call for a full program to begin with that will only be reduced as and when it is impossible to get all fixtures in before the season ends next year.