Joe Burns’ vast experience of playing on difficult pitches in the Sheffield Shield could help him finally lock down a Test spot this summer.
As Australians, we have just been taken through the most humiliating experience due to the astonishing behaviour of our cricketers.
The bullying, sledging and disrespectful behaviour that we have displayed over 50-plus years, under the guise of ‘playing hard on the field’, has turned around and given us the kick in the proverbial.
Despite ongoing international and local condemnation of our behaviour, it seems that Cricket Australia (CA) was oblivious or chose to ignore the issue.
The power of the people
The great power of social media is the platform for the public to expose situations for what they truly are, and to organize action and force change.
I congratulate the South African public and media for their actions. Their attack was focused, multi-faceted and appropriate on offenders of sledging and cheating.
The stump microphones switched on to expose bullying and sledging, the use of the big screens and stairwell video footage to expose unacceptable behaviour, the focused sledging toward reputed offenders – all were well coordinated.
It was no accident that David Warner, instead of Pat Cummings or Josh Hazelwood, was escorted up the stairs to the change room.
It is also clear that while South Africa took some action, not one other person internationally felt any empathy towards the Australian team, particularly the cricketers.
The view is ‘it’s about time, serves them right’. I hope the board of CA has got the message – the public demands cultural change.
A fish rots from the head
The culture of an organisation is determined by the board and CEO, implemented through other lead roles such as coach and captain.
Public demand for change, while not vocal or clear, has been prevalent for many years. Therefore, it is unlikely that the incumbents can implement change they do not subscribe to.
While James Sutherland may have successes that I am unaware of, his handling of recent publicized issues has been highly questionable.
The mishandling of the Memorandum of Understanding caused unnecessary levels of mistrust between CA and the Players’ Association.
We were the laughing stock of the world when he made a formal complaint to the South African Cricket authorities in regards to crowd behaviour.
Seemingly unaware of the international view of Australian spectator behaviour and David Warner’s reputation as a repeat offender of sledging – it appeared as a case of typical colonial entitlement!
When the whole world was expecting decisive action relating a confessed cheat, the best he could do was appoint a bureaucratic investigative panel with no reporting date.
His expectation was to have the Australian team be led out to the field by self-confessed cheats. We must thank Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian Sports Commission for forcing appropriate prompt action, sparing the team and nation further embarrassment.
With such inability to read the gravity of a situation, it is highly questionable that Sutherland could implement cultural change within CA.
The man for the job… or is it a woman?
The greatest area of growth at the moment is women’s cricket. Watching it, I’d say ‘Cricket is a ladies game.’
In other words, Australian women know what it means to behave as a gentleman! If a female CEO is appointed, sledging will be eliminated in no time.
The kan for the job… at the time
Darren Lehmann was the perfect coach to mend a disintegrated team due to selection mayhem. He has been extraordinarily successful in giving players a sense of belonging and fairness in selections.
His tenure has passed the expiry date, however, and a need for gentlemanly behaviour and fair play is the new call. It is unlikely that any former Australian cricketer would genuinely believe in – nor understand – the gentlemanly spirit of the game. We should look for that overseas.
No one man for the job
Test cricket is the most mentally gruelling form of sport in the world. The series is played over a period of a month. In addition, media and public scrutiny are second to none.
It requires extraordinary mental fortitude, warranting a specialist captain with maturity and mental ability beyond that of which is required for the shorter forms of the game.
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Kim Hughes and now Steve Smith are examples of when CA ruined the careers of our best of breed cricketers, appointing them Test captain while still in cricketing adolescence (under 26).
The Test captain should be around 30 years of age and captained a state or international team, ensuring they have the maturity and expertise for the job.
He should have a clean reputation and some brain power (at least have passed HSC), to confirm that sound judgment will prevail.
Usman Khawaja is the man. The captain of the Sheffield shield winners (Queensland), a graduate of University of New South Wales, and a commercial pilot, his subcontinental background and excellent reputation makes him the perfect person to institute cultural change within the team.
A diverse Cricket Australia?
In conclusion, the solution is a female CEO, a foreign coach and a Test team captain of subcontinental origin! While this may seem humorous, it is a snapshot of where CA should be in ten years.
The U15 nationals were won by the most progressive team, Victoria Metro, with five subcontinental players.
In contrast, the CA U15 team selected from the very same Nationals had four Queenslanders that did not even make the semis.
On this squad, there were only three NSW players that had two teams qualify in the semis and three from the winning Victorian team.
This gives insight into where the failures of integrity and trust lie.
Simply put, Cricket Australia needs holistic change, and now is the time to do it.