Australian cricket is on the verge of crisis, with players having taken it as a personal affront that James Sutherland has refused to join pay discussions and fearing they will be unemployed come Saturday.
Players were bewildered on Monday why Cricket Australia chief Sutherland had not intervened in discussions ahead of Friday's deadline for a new memorandum of understanding – a drama that could leave this summer's Ashes series in doubt.
Sutherland has been in England for meetings with the International Cricket Council and attended Monday night's women's World Cup opener, but players have questioned why he has not even joined Australian Cricketers Association chief Alistair Nicholson in discussions via video link.
CA officials, in response, are questioning why the ACA insists Sutherland is needed, for lead negotiator Kevin Roberts is an experienced business and sports administrator.
They question whether the ACA believes Sutherland would roll over, for CA had not followed through on a bid to change the revenue model five years ago before the current MOU was confirmed.
CA insists the current model is fundamentally flawed and has to change for the benefit of the game. Players are due about $500 million over the next five years.
The players also claim there is a philosophical barrier, for they want to remain a "partner" in the sport.
They claim CA, under the guidance of David Peever, a former Rio Tinto Australia boss, now wants them to essentially be an "employee". CA maintains that is not the case.
Players maintain CA's revised offer on Friday is unacceptable, for it still does not maintain the set percentage model players at international and state level have prospered under.
Fairfax Media understands two formal meetings between the parties have been planned for later in the week but these had been in the diary for months. However, such is the degree of frustration, even ill-will, between the parties, that each says the other must make the first serious move this week. For the ACA, that means bringing Sutherland to the table.
The ACA has slated an emergency meeting this weekend if there is no agreement or even a tentative deal on the major issues.
"I just can't see a deal getting done now," one player agent said.
CA says it handed over detailed financial information about future projections last week to the ACA. The players are also at loggerheads over this, insisting CA only gave financial models. CA says 80 per cent of its revenue, including new domestic and international broadcast deals, is not locked in and it's impossible to provide concrete data.
One option for the two parties would be to buy more time and roll the current deal over, even for a couple of months, but the players maintain they won't agree to that.
If there is no deal by Friday, next month's Australia A tour of South Africa will be in doubt – unless players accept a tour-by-tour contract. The players trained in Brisbane on Monday, still hopeful the trip would go ahead. It would also leave August's Test tour of Bangladesh in doubt, and raise concerns about this summer's Ashes series.
It would be a public relations disaster for CA and the players if cricket's showpiece series had to be scrapped.
There is an ACA golf day in Sydney on Tuesday to raise funds for the hardship fund, with money awarded to past players in need of assistance. One agent said on Monday that if players were locked out come Saturday, these funds may soon have go to those who do not enjoy lucrative CA contracts.
Australia's top cricketers average incomes of $1.17 million a year, with CA's original proposal increasing this to $1.45 million. Stars including Steve Smith and David Warner earn about $2 million.
CA did give some ground on Friday, increasing the percentage of surplus funds the players would be able to share in.
Under this revised offer, state-based players – who had been excluded fully from any percentage share under a new deal – would also be able to share in a percentage of surplus funds. The average incomes of state cricketers is about $200,000 a season.
The top female cricketers, to be included in the MOU for the first time, will be able to earn about $200,000 a season.
Grassroots cricket is also a battleground between the two parties.