CA denies Nine's selection influence
Channel Nine will not be picking Australia's cricket teams nor dictating their schedule over the term of the network's new $400 million broadcast rights deal, Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland has said.
Having been pushed to the top of the market by a bold Network Ten bid for all cricket in Australia, Nine clearly expect value for money. Their managing director Jeff Browne told a business lunch in Sydney on Wednesday that there would be "a lot more discussion" of team selection and scheduling between CA and the broadcaster from next summer, particularly around the matter of player rotation.
"I understand why sports want to do that but people at home want to see the best players playing and we urge Cricket Australia to pick the best players every time," Browne said. "I think we've got a better understanding on that. Last year that balance was skewed too much in favour of resting some players so from now on there will be a lot more discussion between CA and the broadcaster about that."
The issue of senior Australian players being rested and rotated during the limited overs portion of the summer was a particular sore point with Nine last season. ESPNcricinfo reported in January that the CA team performance manager Pat Howard had two meetings with Nine's director of sport Steve Crawley and members of the commentary team during the Sydney Test to explain why Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade were to be rested and Michael Hussey dropped.
Browne was clearly of the view that such discussions would become more consultative than merely explanatory in the future, but Sutherland was adamant that the national selectors would not be unduly influenced by the commercial demands of broadcasters, no matter how much they were paying to provide television coverage.
"Cricket has a long-standing and successful relationship with the Nine Network but team selections and scheduling are matters for Cricket Australia," Sutherland said. "The National Selection Panel selects the Australian teams. With the volume of international cricket being played, it will continue to be necessary for us to manage player workloads appropriately.
"We'll continue to consult with our broadcasters on scheduling issues. It's something we have always done. We have a common goal with our broadcast partners to maximise the number of fans watching and enjoying cricket. We'll consider all ideas and then make the appropriate decisions."
Following the Sydney meetings, Nine and CA were engaged in a public slanging match after the stand-in ODI captain George Bailey responded to suggestions he was leading a "B-team" by contending that it was in Nine's interests to talk the game down somewhat as it entered broadcast negotiations. This drew a furious response from the network's executive producer of cricket, Brad McNamara.
"Nowhere has Channel Nine ever talked the one-day game down, nowhere have we ever said this is a 'B team'," McNamara told an Australian radio station. "It's rubbish and George should stick to playing cricket and leave rights to the people who know what they're talking about. I reckon he's got his hands full as it is. He needs to concentrate on staying in the side.
"And he needs to understand where his money's coming from. Without the TV rights deal, George is probably working in a coal mine or flipping burgers at McDonald's. All this talk about the death of one-day cricket, it's not coming from us. Given we were lacking star quality, we were very happy [with the ratings]."
At the announcement of the broadcast deal, Nine's chief executive David Gyngell had rejected suggestions the network would seek assurances that rotations would be reduced. "No, I don't have those political discussions with James," he said. "I don't agree with the rotation policy, but not enough to not buy the cricket. That's up to James to sort out."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here