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Cricket chiefs lucky to survive cull

Jonathan Howcroft

Jonathan Howcroft

Written on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 09:01

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Watching Australian cricket this week has been like watching The Godfather.

Instead of Don Corleone we've had Don Argus. Instead of a Don heading a cabal of Five Families we've had a Don heading a cabal of four former captains (three of the Australian cricket team and one of industry). In both stories the Don character makes offers that cannot be refused. In mafia-run America this leads to bloodshed literal, in Cricket Australia, this is (thankfully) in metaphor only.

Don Argus and his four Capos should be commended for delivering in a single document what an impotent administration has failed to address for at least four years. The 40-page summary report, laudably available on the Cricket Australia website, is damning. Scathing of the root-and-branch systemic failure of the cricketing system that Australia now endures.

The headline recommendations have been widely reported, as have the future departures of the chairman of selectors, the coach and the only current full-time selector. Most have been communicated inclusive of similar reworkings of "I told you so."

There is one issue pertaining to the Argus report that has not yet been widely discussed. That is how the most senior figures in Cricket Australia remain in employment.

I find it astonishing that the leadership of Cricket Australia remains intact following the release of such an indictment of its stewardship. The departures of Andrew Hilditch, Tim Nielsen and Greg Chappell have driven the news cycle for this story but the report is clear: Australian cricket has become a series of failed and uncomplimentary systems with a culture unbefitting a successful elite operation.

Hilditch et al had responsibility for specific aspects of this failure but overall responsibility should rest with the board and the CEO.

They are the paid strategists that have delivered systems unfit for purpose. They are the employers that required an independent eight-month review to empower them to sack their obviously failing high performance managers. Remarkably, they have faced little scrutiny.

The report announcement itself resembled a courtroom sentencing. Who was going down, and for what crimes would they be punished?

CA CEO, James Sutherland, and Chairman, Jack Clarke, looked both forlorn and humiliated. They knew what was coming. They were hearing again in public what they had heard the previous day in private. However, despite the publication of a 40-page report into the systematic failure of Australian cricket from root to tip, Sutherland and Clarke did not face a barrage of questions regarding the tenability of their positions.

Ironically, over the weekend the CEO even went on the offensive. The report was not about scapegoating individuals, we were told; it was about systems and accountability. Again, nobody appears to have linked Cricket Australia's leadership with these failed systems.

The Argus report is a blueprint for the short to medium term future of Australian cricket. It appears we are comfortable for the same administration that oversaw the recent demise to be responsible for its rebuild. Am I the only person that thinks this is somewhat odd?

There is another major factor at play in this debate - the parallel ongoing review by David Crawford and Colin Carter into the governance of Australian cricket. Findings from this report are expected in October and it will be fascinating to note how their recommendations compliment or conflict with those of the Argus-led panel.

The parameters of the Argus review were firmly within the boundaries of team performance. Criticising structure therefore is probably as far as that review was entitled to delve into the administration of CA - not so the Crawford / Carter investigation.

Assuming those authors concur with Argus, it is difficult to envisage the leadership of Cricket Australia not being held accountable for its failings a second time. Crawford in particular has a history of advocating major structural change to sporting bodies, as his reviews into Australian Rules football in 1992 and soccer in 2003 can attest. As Argus restructured certain performance-focussed individuals out of their jobs, so could Carter and Crawford do the same for those concerned with governance and administration.

If all this sounds like a witch-hunt, or a personal vendetta, that is not the case. As Simon Katich exemplifies, if someone in the cricket industry can be dropped for above average performance, is it not commensurate to expect accountability for a demise that can at best be characterised as cyclical and at worst negligent? Besides, what better opportunity could there be to make a clean break and start afresh?

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