Australia captain Steve Smith and his players are locked in a bitter dispute that could have big consequences for this winter's Ashes. Ralph Ellis reports.
"The Aussies are [1.69] favourites to regain the Ashes won by Alistair Cook’s team in 2015, but it’s clear the acrimony that will surround this pay row is not going to help them."
One of the highlights of my sporting life was being in Brisbane for the first day of the Ashes in 2010, and the noise in the Gabba that followed Peter Siddle's hat-trick is firmly in the top five of atmospheres I've ever experienced.
I was tempted to book a holiday this winter and go back there. Thankfully I've not got round to it yet, because it's just possible there won't be an Ashes at all.
Cricket Australia and their Players' Association have become locked in a pay dispute that could end up with all their top stars going on strike after July 1 this year, and it's so bitter that you can't see an end to it.
The Aussies are [1.69] favourites to regain the Ashes won by Alistair Cook's team in 2015, but it's clear the acrimony that will surround this pay row is not going to help them. However it gets settled there will be discontent against the administrators, and that won't do any good for the dressing room harmony if Joe Root's side can get off to a decent start in the series.
The players want to keep the current model where around a quarter of the sport's total revenue gets paid to them at every level from the State game up to the women's and men's international teams. Cricket Australia, despite soaring income especially from the Big Bash, have offered pay increases but want to fix the total amount they share out.
It's got angry with Cricketers' Association boss Alistair Nicholson refusing to back down in the face of an aggressive e-mail from Cricket Australia warning that all pay will stop when the current agreement runs out on June 30.
"An interesting game of cricket without any players" warned Shane Watson in a Tweet using a #fairshare hashtag which is the symbol of their campaign. And Kevin Pietersen got in on the act, asking "when was the last time England won a series in Australia 5-0?"
I think England are value at somewhere up to [4.0] anyway. Root will be bringing a new energy to the side and, although there are still issues with the bowling to resolve, there's no doubt that a young team has been moving in the right direction.
Lancashire's exciting young opener Haseeb Hameed is ready to return after his thrilling introduction to the Test arena in India, and Durham's Keaton Jennings proved himself another top talent too.
With just six weeks to resolve the dispute, which looks unlikely, it has implications for Australia's performance in the ICC Champions Trophy too.
They begin their campaign against New Zealand at Edgbaston on June 2nd, and are [1.44] favourites in the Match Odds but if they are still arguing about money that would be a bet to lay.
Steve Smith's side will be in England because the tournament schedule falls under their existing pay deal, and they start the competition as [4.6] second favourites behind England [3.8]. But you can imagine the simmering discontent behind the scenes as the deadline for a settlement draws closer.
Meanwhile there will be a lot of people who have already booked their travel packages to Australia this winter nervously checking out what else Brisbane has to offer. The Koala Sanctuary, anyone?