Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings will join a high-powered Australian Cricket Council meeting. Image by David Crosling/AAP PHOTOS

cricket

Cricket bigwigs meet over muddled schedule

2020-08-12 18:12:01

The Australian Cricket Council will assemble for a rare meeting on Thursday as the sport’s bigwigs attempt to reach consensus on how best to resolve their COVID-19 scheduling headache.

It has been almost two months since Cricket Australia gave Kevin Roberts his marching orders, installing Nick Hockley as interim chief executive.

The level of public disgruntlement among state associations and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) has dipped, but there remains several points of concern and contention.

States’ push for governance reform, questions over how best to replace Michael Kasprowicz on CA’s board, and debate over funding aren’t over.

But the most pressing issue is arguably the 2020-21 schedule; the domestic season should be starting in approximately five weeks yet players are still in the dark as to when their pre-season might end.

The health crisis has made it hard for CA to make progress or offer guarantees.

Next month’s limited-overs tour of England is still yet to be locked in, although quarantine concessions could be ticked off by the end of this week.

The governing body will then focus on likely amendments to international fixtures announced in May, including an in-doubt Test against Afghanistan plus the prospect of shifting the Boxing Day Test away from Melbourne.

The challenge confronting Hockley runs far deeper than how best to milk the cash cow that is India’s Test tour – and is arguably more difficult than that faced by the AFL and NRL during the pandemic.

CA must push forward with a plan for five domestic competitions plus a range of international tours while clearing unique logistical hurdles that make it harder to rewrite fixtures on the run (e.g. pitch preparation).

State cricketers are believed to be largely willing to enter biosecurity bubbles for the Sheffield Shield and other competitions, while there is also talk of using more grade-cricket grounds to get domestic seasons rolling.

But the question of funding hubs for games with no broadcast revenue – even if they are a crucial part of Australia’s success at international level – is yet to be resolved.

Thursday’s meeting of the Australian Cricket Council, a collaborative body formed as per a recommendation from an independent review into CA’s culture sparked by the ball-tampering scandal, will be the first of the year and may deliver some answers.

It will bring together CA chair Earl Eddings, ACA boss Greg Dyer plus their equivalents at state and territory associations.

Dyer, as he did throughout Roberts’ stand-down period that caused ructions throughout the sport, is likely to push back against any attempt to cut the length of the various domestic seasons.

“There’s a huge amount of complexity in all of that (domestic cricket) because each of those competitions are reliant on interstate travel,” Hockley said on Saturday.

“But the absolute starting point is that we get as much of the schedule away as possible.”

CA has declared its commitment to stage full WBBL and BBL seasons, with the women’s Twenty20 competition currently slated to start on October 17.