Everyone just calm down, the Ashes aren’t under threat

Alec Swann Columnist

By , Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    When November 23 comes around, a full-strength Australia will face a full-strength England in the Ashes opener at the Gabba.

    The latter is a given, or at least it should be unless injuries get in the way, but the former, if reports are to be believed, may not be quite as straightforward.

    Money, the distribution of it, the amount of it, the spending of it, is the cause (isn’t it always?) and the sport’s golden egg is now in the firing line.

    But it isn’t, not really.

    Without getting into the detail, as others have done far more succinctly than I could manage, the Ashes will go ahead as planned and that’s all there is to it.

    Despite the ongoing salary spat, there is both a need and desire as Cricket Australia can’t afford for it not to and the players won’t want it not to.

    Such brinkmanship is the inevitable direction such a dispute takes – aim for the highest common denominator for maximum impact – and neither side appears in a favourable light but this is bravado and nothing more.

    It is rather depressing to see dirty laundry washed so publicly but no real surprise in an age where there are no secrets and a revelation escalates in double-quick time to full-blown crisis.

    When you get to the point of a chief executive threatening to not pay anybody – ‘tidy your room or you can’t watch TV’ – things have gone a bit too far.

    Quite why the two parties can’t sit down in a room and come to a suitable arrangement is probably unfathomable to many but stubbornness is stubbornness however you choose to dress it up and egos generally don’t like a climbdown.

    Yet there will be a retreat in one shape or another because, for no other reason, there has to be.

    Australia's Josh Hazlewood (C) celebrates bowling out Englands Joe Root

    (AFP PHOTO/IAN KINGTON)

    Don’t expect anything similar to the Major League Baseball-style lockdown that took place in the mid 1990s as the sport isn’t quite as militant and it would take a brave cricketer to potentially bid farewell to his international career however much cash he could generate from a mercenary, globe-trotting approach.

    And no governing body worth their salt, unless they truly have an inflated view of their own self-importance or a corporate death wish, is seriously going to jeopardise their marquee event because they don’t want to hold an adult conversation.

    Neither side are coming from such a strong position that they can do as they please and while the players may carry a better hand than in previous years, the majority can’t afford, and won’t want, to see their mode of employment jeopardised.

    This makes the ‘all in’ attitude of the players commendable and a high-profile international sticking together with a journeyman state peer lends the argument greater weight than the former merely wanting to inflate his bank balance.

    But one point Mitchell Starc and company have to bear in mind is that the tide of opinion can turn very swiftly so although they may have a good case, many will see, rightly or wrongly, their campaigning as avarice and a stain on the institution they are fortunate to represent.

    And on the other side of the fence, if the hierarchy take the proverbial sawn-off to their own feet and alienate their employees by being unforthcoming with their wages, they will very quickly be deemed unfit to govern.

    It might well drag on for a bit longer, as arguments where neither party consider themselves in the wrong have a tendency to do, but all out conflict isn’t on the cards quite yet.

    Neither side wants to lose, either face or financially, and any chance of a win-win situation has ridden off into the sunset, but don’t buy all this “Ashes in jeopardy” hyperbole.

    So go ahead and buy your tickets for Brisbane because, certainly for this particular element, there’s nothing to see here.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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