CRICKET: Australian cricketers have all but refused to accept contracts to tour South Africa later this week but the players have formulated a plan to try and save the Ashes.
The impending abandonment of the Australia A tour is the first major statement from players to their bosses that they will not be pushed around in the ongoing pay war, while next month's Test tour to Bangladesh also has the potential to go under unless major advancements are made in pay talks.
However, if the crisis is still unresolved by the summer the Australian Cricketers Association have flagged a proposal whereby they could sub-contract cricketers back to Cricket Australia to ensure the Ashes will go ahead.
More immediately though, the ACA has decided to challenge the legality of the multi-year state contracts for players selected for Australia A, meaning that the South African tour is all but dead.
The ACA are demanding third-party mediation and the involvement of Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland as the path towards resolving the protracted impasse and if CA aren't willing to make those concessions, talks are unlikely to proceed far before Australia A are due to fly out on Friday.
Usman Khawaja, the Australia A captain, and Steve Smith, the Test captain, were involved in an emergency meeting on Sunday and said the players' are united in their decision not to tour to South Africa, despite their desire to be playing cricket.
"It's not an easy thing to do. Individually I really want to play cricket,” Khawaja said.
"I haven't played cricket for a long time. But we're very united.
"It was quite an easy phone call in the end because everyone was going in the same direction. We're still going to be training this week, going up there (to Brisbane), doing our thing, getting ready and hopefully something can be resolved. But if it's not it's a tough decision that has to be made at this time.
"It was a pretty important conversation to be had. Smithy was there to support any decision either way and he was there as the captain.
"From our point of view we obviously want to play cricket but until the key issues of the MOU are resolved it's going to be tough from our end.”
Five members of the Australia A touring squad, including Khawaja are presently uncontracted - however the rest have multi-year state deals.
However, the ACA says these deals don't compel players like Ashton Agar to tour South Africa because tour contracts state that a player can either 'accept' an offer by CA to tour or not. And there is no compulsion to do so.
Former star Shane Watson said players are aware of the danger of losing public support but he is confident cricket fans are still supportive of the stance the playing group is taking in fighting for a retention of the revenue share model.
Stars including Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Ed Cowan and Steve O'Keefe filed in for the meeting at Sydney's Hilton Hotel.
The ACA understand the importance of the Australian Test team continuing to play cricket and have lodged a proposal to ensure the Bangladesh tour in August and then the Ashes are not called off.
"To rescue the tours and the summer of cricket, if there was no agreed MOU the ACA will be discussing with the players the assignment to the ACA of an exclusive option to employ or second them,” the ACA said in a statement.
"This means the ACA could offer to facilitate the availability of players on the right terms to assist those games and series that we all wish to see played.
"This may extend the ACA offering the players back to CA on the right terms for the purposes of rescuing the summer of cricket. This would be best achieved by an agreed MOU.”