I’ve gotta say – this has been a long time coming. The ball tampering scandal isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom.
The real problem?
The management of Cricket Australia starting with the Chairman of the Board, David Peever, the other Board members, and the longstanding CEO, James Sutherland.
It was evident again in their management of this issue.
Remember, James Sutherland’s initial reaction on the Sunday when it broke? It was to talk about a “full investigation” that required time. When he said that, Sutherland hadn’t even spoken to the captain, Steve Smith, who had already admitted to what had happened with Cameron Bancroft at a media conference earlier in the day.
But it’s no surprise because the relationship between management and players is totally dysfunctional – dating back to the players’ dispute that finally ended last year, which I talked about in my earlier post.
What Sutherland should have done was:
(1) Immediately phoned Steve Smith to find out who exactly was involved;
(2) Immediately send back those involved to Australia, regardless of their status in the team;
(3) Announce the forfeiture of the Third Test due to inability to field a full team.
That would have demonstrated to the world that such behaviour was not in keeping with cricket’s much-lauded, but often-absent, values.
What we need now is a truly independent investigation of the game, similar to what the Australian Cricketers’ Association is calling for.
The culture of the playing group is one thing. But as anyone knows, culture starts at the top, and Cricket Australia Board and management is where such an investigation and wholesale change to its culture has to start.
The culture in the playing group didn’t just happen by itself.
While I think James Sutherland has been in the job too long and it’s time for change, David Peever is a different kettle of fish.
He came into the role as Chairman with his 1970s union-busting tactics. It might have worked in the mining industry; it didn’t work with cricket’s pay dispute. He wrought so much damage last year, he should have fallen on his sword when it was such a failure.
Peever, his Board and Sutherland MUST accept responsibility for their roles in creating the toxic environment that has existed for quite some time. Let’s be frank: we’ve all read about, and not said anything much, as the Australian cricket team has gone about their winning ways – where winning is everything and the real values of cricket have been cast aside.
Sledging and abhorrent behaviour have not just been tolerated but, I would argue, encouraged.
Finally, there can be no more telling indictment of the failure of leadership within the Board and management of Cricket Australia than how they dealt with Steve Smith.
Smith admitted he did the wrong. We know he’s copped the 12-month ban.
But where was Cricket Australia when Smith held his media conference on returning to Australia? Where was their support for the young man’s well-being?
What Smith, Warner and Bancroft admitted to doing was wrong. But you don’t hang your players out to deal with the consequences alone. Peever and Sutherland could have, and should have, expressed their disappointment, their lack of tolerance for what happened; but they also should have been standing by the side of the players as they fronted the media.
Smith’s, Warner’s and Bancroft’s failure is Cricket Australia’s failure. And, more than anyone, that means David Peever and James Sutherland.
Peever’s and Sutherland’s actions were not inadequate leadership. They were no leadership.
Australian cricket deserves better.