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Cricket’s vexed times at Ridgemont High

1st November, 2018
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1st November, 2018
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And so another one bites the dust as the chairman of the Cricket Australia board, David Peever, feels the chilling finger of fate upon his neck and reads the writing scrawled in goat’s blood on the wall, and falls upon his sword lest someone thrust the bejewelled dagger of Conan into his back.

And – a mish-mash of mangled metaphors aside – it was probably the right thing to do.

Well, not probably. It was. The man put the ten in untenable.

A week ago, Peever was re-elected as chairman of the CA board before anyone had seen the damning Longstaff review of Cricket Australia’s culture.

The report found the board partially culpable for a culture that led to the events in Cape Town. Peever, as chairman of that board, is the go-to man.

Peever said he accepted full responsibility for the report and that the buck stopped with him. This did not apparently extend to him actually, you know, punishing himself or anyone on the board.

The board did not take it to mean they should resign en masse. The members of the board – according to the members of the board – should remain members of the board. Because, well, it would be best.

And that’s something that would make sense to a bunch of bankers. Bankers award themselves pay rises before the bank’s financials are shown to shareholders.

It would make a great deal of sense to a party room of politicians to order an independent review only once you know the answers that’ll come from it.

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And then insulate one’s self from the findings.

And then only enact those parts of the review that you like.

And all that.

That’s just politics. That’s what these people call ‘Tuesday’.

But cricket is not politics or business, at least not … y- … well, it is, isn’ it. At the top level, cricket is full of bankers and suits and people with degrees, high-skilled in the Machiavellian arts.

And one supposes that’s what happens in a billion dollar industry – the people responsible for earning the organisation lots of money get their cut.

You keep that spigot of cash ticking, reach your KPIs, all that stuff, and you’re a valuable man, worthy of bonuses.

David Peever speaks at a Cricket Australia press conference.

David Peever had no choice but to resign. (Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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Anyway.

Anyway! It would make sense to these suited creatures from finance and politics that Kevin Roberts – Cricket Australia’s chief operations officer and management executive – should be appointed chief executive three weeks before the findings of the damning review were announced.

They’d deem it cool that a guy high up in a culture labelled “arrogant” with reports of “bullying” during the most vexed period of Australian cricket since possibly ever, would get a promotion into the big chair because … well, we dunno. Presumably, because those who pick these people in these roles believe he’s the best man for the job.

And they can make a case. They do.

Yet Roberts, too, takes “full responsibility” for a culture that meant players were so desperate to win a cricket match for Australia that they’d rub the cricket ball with sandpaper in direct contravention of the laws.

Yet Roberts does not believe himself personally responsible. He didn’t put the sandpaper in his pants. So … I dunno. Go Kev. Good luck to you.

But it’s a bit like when Nathan Grey was promoted to Wallabies’ defensive coach after the Waratahs ran third last in Super Rugby 2017 and leaked the 15th most points (522) in an 18-team competition.

Perhaps there’s something in N.Grey the D-Man that regular punters like us cannot see. There probably is. I mean … there must be, right? Otherwise, why would that guy get a promotion?

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Because one swallow does not the great Bob Hawke make, Sco Mo, you high-panted try-hard you.

Perhaps Grey and Roberts were judged upon their overall record, and not the aberration of an annus horribilis, of others’ actions.

But the Waratahs defence was abysmal for a year and the defensive coach got a promotion.

And Kevin Roberts is the new chief executive of Cricket Australia after being involved at the top level in the most shameful episode in Australian cricket since, I dunno, the Sydney Riot of 1879.

Meanwhile, the chairman’s gone the way of the chief executive, the coach and the Naughty Three players who’ve had their bottom spanked in no uncertain fashion.

Is that fair? I dunno. I’m wavering.

At the time it seemed fair. The amount of press and gnashing of teeth over the damning footage of Cam Bancroft doing his thing with the sandpaper in the pants, and the ham-fisted post-match presser, with poor Stevie Smith blankly unaware of the gravitas of the whole shit-storm was to follow, well … when James Sutherland stood ashen-faced and read out the penalties, at the time most of us, I reckon, thought, well, that’s tough but fair, and who’s to argue?

But as we’ve thought about it, and talked of Faf Du Plessis who twice copped fines for ball-tampering, and Shahid Afridi who tried eat the cricket ball in order to raise its seam, and we thought … was what David Warner instructed Cam Bancroft to do and which Steve Smith walked by worth 9-12 months out?

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Should Smith be captain before April of 2020?

Steve Smith

Steve Smith reacts during a press conference. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

Certainly, the International Cricket Council did not punish the three as harshly.

Smith was struck with a one-match ban, fined 100 per cent of his match fee, and docked four (4) demerit points, whatever they are.

Bancroft copped a fine worth 75 per cent of his match fee and was slugged with three (3) demerit points. Bancroft was clear to play the next Test. All good, son. But don’t do it again, or else…

Warner was hit with no sanction by the ICC at all. Not a razoo, not a point, not a Test out in the naughty chair.

But Cricket Australia read the public mood and slapped the three with huge fines. And they’re still going on. They’re out match fees, sponsorship, matches, and so many good vibes.

And if you know Smith, it would be hurting. As Dirk Nannes described him, he’s a proper cricket badger. He’s like Ricky Ponting – he eats it, drinks it, takes it to dinner and makes sweet love with it.

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But he did a dumb thing, made a very bad call, and has been whacked with the prickliest of sticks.

Davey Warner’s copping grief in grade, and Cam Bancroft’s keeping mum in the west.

David Warner

David Warner leaves the field. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

They’d all have stories to tell. And their union – the Cricket Association, no great supporters of Roberts or CA management – are agitating to bring their people back into the fold.

So, what do you reckon, greater Australian sports fan?

Should we ‘Let Them Play’ as the Sydney Morning Herald’s back page seemed to suggest?

Or leave them to stew and set a precedent?

Vexed times at Ridgemont High, the people. Vexed times at Ridgemont High.

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