Australian cricket October 24, 2008

Keep players in the loop - O'Connor

Cricinfo staff

Creagh O'Connor: "It is important that we, as administrators, keep them [players] close as we make the difficult decisions needed to manage cricket" © Getty Images

Creagh O'Connor has bowed out as Cricket Australia chairman by saying the last Australian summer - with discontent in the national team over the board's handling of issues, including the Harbhajan Singh racism row - was "the most difficult time" in his career. He has also called for administrators to maintain an excellent rapport with the players given the changing nature of the game.

"Our players make a significant contribution to the health of the game and it is important that we, as administrators, keep them close as we make the difficult decisions needed to manage cricket in its fast changing and often complex times," he said in his farewell address. "The last Australian summer was the most difficult time in my long career in cricket and the male players ended the year feeling at a distance from the managers of the Australian game.

A few Australian players, including Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting had criticised the board earlier this year during its conflict with the IPL over protecting its sponsors. This came in the aftermath of the Australia-India Tests, where Harbhajan Singh was accused of making a racist remark to Symonds, a charge that was upheld by the match referee but subsequently overturned on appeal. Symonds' team-mates Ponting, Michael Clarke, and Matthew Hayden were also present at the hearings, which didn't go in their favour - critics said the Australian board backed down to appease the BCCI.

O'Connor said: "I am pleased we have since come together to review how we each managed the summer's difficult issues and have agreed where we might mutually have done better and how we might mutually do better in future." O'Connor, who will be replaced by Jack Clarke, said the board will need to focus on cricket at the grassroots.

"The big question for us nationally, and within the states and territories, continues to be about striking the right balance between what we invest in the development of the game at a community level and what we invest in our elite success,'' he said. "I am not convinced we have got the balance right, and that balance varies across Australia.

"Investment in development of the game seems to be the first place for cuts whenever the belt is tightened, but we need to recognise that our future is totally dependent on the next generation of Australians being as passionate about cricket as are we."

"And that will not happen without active investment in the recruitment of the next generation of players, a few of whom will become stars but most of whom will become lifelong fans.''