SYDNEY - Australia's players on Thursday boycotted this month's Australia A tour to South Africa, escalating a bitter pay dispute which threatens to derail senior tours to Bangladesh and India as well as this year's home Ashes.
The Australia Cricketers' Association (ACA) said the players were unavailable to tour South Africa for the Australia A team without an agreed pay deal or new Memorandum of Understanding, after their existing contracts with Cricket Australia expired on June 30 following months of increasingly acrimonious wrangling.
"It is with great frustration that with no progress towards resolving the current dispute, Australia A players confirm they will not tour South Africa," ACA said in a statement.
"This decision is made in support of more than 200 male and female players who are now unemployed."
Cricket Australia (CA) said it was disappointed with the players' decision not to go on the A team tour of South Africa.
"CA regrets that players have made this decision despite progress made in talks between CA and the ACA in meetings over the past week, including regular communication between CEOs," it said in a statement.
"While a new MOU has not yet been agreed, CA is of the view that these talks should have enabled the tour to proceed as planned."
CA said it has advised Cricket South Africa of the players' decision.
The players, selected for the Australia A tour starting on July 12, had been training this week with captain Usman Khawaja and hoping for an end to the impasse before their scheduled departure on Friday.
The tour was to include four-day matches and a limited overs tri-series, also involving India A.
Australia A's squad of 19 for both formats included Test players Glenn Maxwell and Jackson Bird as well as Khawaja.
"By making this call, the Australia A players have sacrificed their own ambitions for the collective - an incredibly selfless act that shows their strength and overall commitment to the group," the ACA said.
There are fears now that the pay row could scupper next month's Test tour to Bangladesh, the one-day international series in India in September and even the Ashes against England, which are due to begin with the first of five Tests in Brisbane in late November.
CA and the players' union hit an impasse after the board attempted to scrap a 20-year-old arrangement giving cricketers a fixed share of revenue, in favour of dividing surpluses among elite players and offering a pay rise.
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke has urged the parties to extend the old deal for 12 months to allow for more negotiations in a bid to break the damaging standoff.
CA said it will continue to work towards a new MOU and called on the ACA to show "the flexibility clearly now needed to achieve that outcome."