Pay war damage already done - Johnson
Negotiations between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association are continuing at a snail's pace but the damage has already been done, the former Test paceman Mitchell Johnson has said.
Talks between the two warring parties - including the chief executives James Sutherland and Alistair Nicholson - resumed in Melbourne on Wednesday with time fast running out to avoid major dislocation to the game, both in terms of commercial deals with sponsors and broadcasters, and also the Bangladesh tour in August.
While discussions are now taking place on the sort of level that should lead to an eventual resolution, little movement is discernible from CA's strong desire to end the fixed revenue percentage models at the core of past collective agreements, and likewise the ACA's intent to keep the model in place. Johnson, who retired from the international game in 2015, said relationships would take a long time to heal whatever the outcome.
"It's been pretty disappointing and once it's all dealt with, the player and CA relationship is going to be a struggle … it's going to be very ordinary," Johnson said in Sydney. "Even if it gets sorted, the damage has already been done. There's been personal insults about the players being greedy. That's not the case.
"The relationship is going to have to build again. The last time I felt this way - not to this extent - was the Argus Review [in 2011]. That was the last time we had a little bit of trouble between the players and CA."
Commercial pressure is mounting in terms of players looking at signing deals with sponsors competing against CA's major corporate partners. It has been reported that both Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith are close to signing deals with Mercedes to follow on from Mitchell Starc's newly unveiled contract with an Audi dealership in western Sydney. The ACA's commercial manager, Tim Cruickshank, is currently in India for talks about the collective intellectual property passed on from CA to the players' commercial arm, the Cricketers' Brand, when the most recent MoU expired on July 1.
"The players have fought so hard, the ACA, for the last 19 years, and got this model that we have in a really good place, and other things as well," Johnson said. "From the CA point of view, I know David Peever, ex-Rio Tinto ... no unions. So that is the thing that concerns me a lot. If we lose this battle as players, does then the ACA start getting their legs chopped from underneath them and the players lose the ACA?
"That is the scary thing from my point of view. Cricket will still go on but I don't know what sort of input the players will have in the future. I saw Nathan Lyon this morning and I think he's as disappointed as everyone. The way it has been dealt with in the media, it probably should have been more of a private matter ... it could have been dealt with very differently."
Speaking at the launch of a new app called BowlFit for young fast bowlers, Johnson also said England's recent loss to South Africa at Trent Bridge would place doubts in the minds of the team led by Joe Root ahead of a likely pace-based Australian assault in the forthcoming Ashes series.
"They've got a few issues to sort out," Johnson said. "It's only one game but it's the way they got beaten that you see the score line. Joe Root being a new captain; they'll try and put a bit of pressure on him to see how he handles it. Australia are a huge chance. It'll be a great series but there are some scars there as well.
"You want to be consistent and they probably haven't got that consistency at the moment. It's going to be hard for them now because they have been beaten, there's pressure on them. I don't care too much about England to be honest. I don't care what they bring as long as it's a good contest."
Another area Johnson found intriguing was the selection of Gary Ballance at No. 3, though a finger fracture has ruled him out of the next Test against South Africa. "England have Gary Ballance at No.3 and when you're at No.3, you're meant to be one of the best players in the team, if not the best," Johnson said. "I don't think he is.
"If you're a bowler and you see Gary Ballance at No.3, then you actually get a lot of confidence from that. Australia would have a lot of confidence. They [England] have changed their team a little bit over the past. They're trying to find the right squad. It's getting close to an Ashes series, so you want to lock that in."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig