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Sutherland breaks silence on homework fiasco

Daniel Brettig

May 15, 2013

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

James Sutherland at the announcement of the Commonwealth Bank as Australia's major sponsor, Sydney, May 15, 2013
James Sutherland at the announcement of the Commonwealth Bank as Australia's major sponsor © Getty Images

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has spoken for the first time about the "homework" fiasco that enveloped the national team on a horrid tour of India, stating his displeasure at how the squad's discipline broke down to the point that four players including then vice-captain Shane Watson were suspended from a Test match.

At the time of the suspensions, which also ruled James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson out of contention for the third Test of the series in Mohali in March, Sutherland was overseas and conspicuous by his absence from CA's public response to the episode, leaving the team performance manager Pat Howard to field questions. However Sutherland told ESPNcricinfo that he had since gained a deep understanding of the issues at play, and stressed to team management that such a scenario could not be allowed to unfold again.

"My starting point with all of that is personally I'm disappointed we got to that stage," Sutherland said. "I now have a pretty in-depth understanding of where and how it got to there and I'm still disappointed that it happened in the circumstances when it got to there and how it got to there.

"I'm supportive of the decisions that were made at the time and I'm a really firm believer in the fact that those decisions will ultimately stand us in good stead as we build to sustained performance at the highest level. I think it's pretty well understood internally what I think about it, and the need for us to ensure those things are dealt with better before they ever get to that stage."

While Sutherland was hesitant to attribute the suspensions and their prelude to any one major factor, he conceded that communication within the team had broken down, leaving players unaware of how badly the team's captain Michael Clarke, coach Mickey Arthur and team manager Gavin Dovey felt that standards had slipped. It was an area the absence of the retired Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey was keenly felt.

"It would be dangerous to narrow it down to one or two things," Sutherland said. "It was a culmination of a whole lot of things, and to pinpoint it as being communication of people not necessarily understanding where they were … yes that is one of the reasons no doubt. But there's a whole lot of others as well I think."

Issues of leadership and character within Australian cricket had been on Sutherland's mind well before the events of India, and he would like to see greater emphasis placed on the education of young players so that their responsibilities to teammates and the game as a whole are better understood, alongside their burgeoning skills as batsmen and bowlers.

"Clearly we want to be building or developing the best players and part of that is developing players who are not only capable in a cricketing sense," Sutherland said. "They are strong of character, they're highly resilient, they're able to adapt, and they have all of these character traits. To some extent you're born with those and to some extent they're circumstantial according to your environment and also they can be developed.

"That's part of our challenge as a sport in developing our best talent is to do that even better in this day and age, understanding the variability of cricket today, the need to adapt and the need to be resilient, to get through tough conditions in a foreign country you might never have visited before. All of those things are part of character.

"That comes back to our point about sending more younger players away for longer periods to learn what it's like to try to fight through a six-week tour when you can't make a run and fight your way through it. Phil Hughes in India, it wasn't great to see him early on in the tour, but the way he fought through that tour of India I thought was fantastic, just the sort of stuff we want to see from our players when they're down."

Sutherland said plans were in the works to extend CA's remit to educate players at an earlier age, the better to prepare them for a game that is now split across three formats and a wide variety of attitudes and career paths, from the Baggy Green ideal now co-opted by the Commonwealth Bank as the new major sponsor of the Test team, to the individualism and money upfront mentality of the IPL, BBL and other Twenty20 leagues.

"One of the things we will want to do over the next couple of years is identify and work with that talent at an even younger age than we have in the past," Sutherland said. "We've tended to let the cream rise to the top in recent times, but perhaps we need to nurture those high potential players a little bit earlier, and develop their other character beyond their cricket abilities and prepare them for what's next.

"It's not a lesson out of India, it's something we've been talking about for quite some time, certainly I've been speaking to Pat Howard about it ever since he started [in 2011]. We've been talking about nurturing our young, talented teenagers a little bit earlier than we have in the past. Some other sports do that very well and I'd like to see cricket doing a lot more of that in the next little while."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Meety on (May 17, 2013, 2:36 GMT)

@bobagorof on (May 15, 2013, 23:35 GMT) - there is no evidence, but that won't stop the knockers knocking! == == == Another aspect that annoys me about Sutherlands take on this, is he says communication was an issue, but doesn't delve into the fact (as stated at the time), that there were a number of other issues that had occurred in recent time. In isolation - the homeworkgate saga was an overreaction, but unless you were a part of the build up to it, you cannot claim to know the full story. Judging by the vague statements that Sutheraland has made (...pretty in-depth understanding of where and how it got to there and I'm still disappointed that it happened in the circumstances when it got to there and how it got to there.) - plain gobbly-gook, he doesn't really know either, & is just talking for the love of the sound of his own voice! Sutherland - please resign!

Posted by ygkd on (May 17, 2013, 1:00 GMT)

cont/ Why is that a problem? It is because success at a second sport makes you more "interesting" and this puts you in the selectors' thoughts as "an athlete". Which is fine if you're a potential AFL draft pick, but if you're of similar ability at a lesser known second sport without the professionalism of AFL, it will not necessarily help you as a young player making his way through a footy-dominated cricket culture. Few will know and few will think it matters if they do know. Cricket needs to state the need to put cricket first, in order to find the most resilient ones. If that is what is meant by identifying talent earlier, then I can understand. However, the devil shall be in the detail. If it means, in Victoria, just looking over the fence enviously at the footy squads, then it won't achieve anything. Finding out more about the young players in the system is fair enough, but the way to do that is with a more professional system for a number and not behavioural classes for a few.

Posted by ygkd on (May 17, 2013, 0:41 GMT)

Read an interesting but not entirely surprising piece this morning. Victoria has lost one of its two "wins" against AFL - Meyrick Buchanan to footy after all. Now, Buchanan hardly set the world alight. He is easiest remembered in short-form, which is hardly surprising as young blokes play so much of it. However, he was attempting to be something of a specialist, which for footy/cricketers is not all that common. This leaves Alex Keath, who has been described as a fielder who bats down the order, well down, and bowls fifth-change. Sometimes. He was virtually guaranteed an AFL spot, but will need a lot longer to make it in cricket. This time-frame has to be taken into account when bringing on youth and I do not believe the current set-up does that. Also, in Victoria there is a tendency to look to footy for lost athletes. Sure, it's the biggest competition in town, but other sports are largely off the radar.

Posted by David_Boon on (May 16, 2013, 9:52 GMT)

This whole fiasco is a joke. This is a cricket team, not a business. and you can't force a 'culture' by implementing rules. The only thing that matters is on-field results, and the very idea that Pat Howard is employed pretty much sums up the problem. Do you think an NFL team has a 'Team Performance Manager'? What about Manchester United? Or any other EPL team? Or the NBA? Sutherland himself should be shouldering the blame for establishing a 'culture' where the team runs itself as though it is a corporation and not a sports team. I'm sick of reading this kind of stuff, I wish they would just get back to playing cricket.

Posted by ygkd on (May 16, 2013, 9:04 GMT)

"We've tended to let the cream rise to the top in recent times, but perhaps we need to nurture those high potential players a little bit earlier, and develop their other character beyond their cricket abilities and prepare them for what's next." What I would like to know is exactly how the high potential will be recognised? In the footy TAC Cup in Victoria, things are fairly transparent. There is a lot going on out in the regions where it should. Cricket is too centralised. This may sound like a strange thing to say, but what happens if the right players aren't always coming through to the state setups? It's no good to say "We've identified the talent" and leave it at that. Not everyone develops at the same rate. Not every 15yo match-winner has a game for the future. Best not to make too much of things too early. Best too to not make too much of teens too early, or character faults can be magnified by the weight of a big head on young shoulders. It is simple. You reap what you sow.

Posted by Meety on (May 16, 2013, 4:27 GMT)

@Jono Makim - 7 x ODIs + 1 20/20. The old saying only a FOOL makes the same twice! This is 2nd time around!

Posted by bobagorof on (May 16, 2013, 0:35 GMT)

I'd like to see what Sutherland plans to do about the lack of communication that he admits contributed to this mess. What changes will be implemented to improve things?

I'd also like to see some evidence that the players hate playing under Clarke, as everyone is suggesting. Sure, he had a run-in with Katich years ago and there's bound to be some personality clashes within the dressing room, but to read some of the comments here (and on other articles) you'd think that there's an open revolt going on and Clarke better be a light sleeper. Which of the players feel this way, and where's your evidence? And are you suggesting that the professional players are deliberately underperforming as some form of sabotage? Or are you merely suggesting that Ponting's slack captaincy allowed a culture of mediocrity to thrive, and there's a backlash now that the players are being 'encouraged' to put in some hard work (and the captain's favourites have changed with the captain)?

Posted by   on (May 16, 2013, 0:34 GMT)

It is pretty obvious even from what he did say that Clarke has lost the players' ears.They either don't listen or don't respect him. If it got to the point on tour they had to suspend players to try sand get some degree of authority/ respect, well the captain- player relationship must be broken. It should be up to the Captain to lead and earn/demand respect off the field as well as on it. Great player but he is obviously NOT a leader, hence they feel the need to bring back Haddin ( " his experience will be invaluable among the team") when there are so many promising keepers in the country. As Clarke and the new age medicos lead this team to oblivion in the next Ashes series, who are they planning to bring back for the summer? Alan Border?

Posted by ygkd on (May 15, 2013, 23:22 GMT)

cont/ The best forum for allowing temperament to surface are two-day games. This, however, would require greater resources in the regional structures and a different direction. Currently, short-form is king. Cameos can sway selections too easily. All-rounders rule too much. Specialist skills like wrist-spin are hard to find. Yet, it is these specialist skills that Test cricket requires. The others will do well up to a certain level and then most will find it all too tough. There is little point wasting time in educating those in that category about their duty to the game or their team-mates. Focus, instead, on particular skills along with temperament and the results will come because those with the dedication to hone specialist skills along the way will also have the dedication to do the right thing when they arrive.

Posted by ygkd on (May 15, 2013, 23:07 GMT)

"We've been talking about nurturing our young, talented teenagers a little bit earlier than we have in the past. Some other sports do that very well and I'd like to see cricket doing a lot more of that in the next little while." Exactly. Have a look at the AFL system. There, a seventeen-year-old regional talent will get access to a quite professional, cashed-up set-up, with training and games and plenty of it, so that he may improve and prove his worth (or not). By comparison, a young cricketer at the same stage will get a few short-form hit-outs if he's lucky. There are not enough games, let alone longer-form ones, and this means selections can be too hit-and-miss and talent, such that is left after the AFL has had more than its share, can still be over-looked. Much has been said about cricket missing out in the southern states, but the time for talk has long gone. Changes are required for this spring/summer and one of the traits that should be given priority is temperament.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (May 15, 2013, 23:04 GMT)

Australian cricket has detoriated sharply under Sutherland. He is full of rhetoric and it has flowed down to the results. He should step down.

Posted by Simoc on (May 15, 2013, 21:47 GMT)

Lots of empty rhetoric there. CA hired a second rate coach and let him select as well.With Clarke on side and all other players offside, we won't beat to many sides away from home. They are a majority of the selection panel on tour.

Posted by mshyder on (May 15, 2013, 21:33 GMT)

When Mr. Sutherland supports the decision of suspension he has to admit that Mickey Arthur, Michael Clark and Gavin Dovey were responsible for the lack of communication with the team and the sliding of the disciplinary standards at the first place. What has he done to penalize these 3 for being responsible for such a situation. It is very obvious that non of them known man management and lacks the respect from the players. It is not the players who should have been suspended it is these 3 that should be penalized for their inability to perform their task professionally.

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

Michael Clarke is the problem, pure and simple. Nobody wants to play under him and his remarkable rise (or pulling his finger out as i like to call it) coincides directly with the rest of the team's dramatic slides and diplays so clearly his own recognition that he better perfom because nobody else can be bothered under his 'rule'. He is, pure and simple, a schoolyard bully that no-one wants to be around - champion player or not.

Posted by Charlie101 on (May 15, 2013, 13:59 GMT)

Sutherland really did not enlighten us regarding what actually happened . Did 1. Players break curfews 2. Were they not putting enough into training 3. Spending all their time checking on their IPL contracts or 4 . Hate playing under their captain.

I have a feeling it is number 4 and I would love to think that a comprehensize hammering in the Ashes similar to the Indian fiasco might result in Clarke and some selectors resigning and a happier bunch of Aussie players but I do not think we are playing well enough to hammer anyone just at the minute.

Posted by Nicely_Time.Man on (May 15, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

Remove Clarke as a captain. seniors are axed, not respected, not selected, faith on his favorite non-performing players. The day since Clarke was named as a captain the problem started like Katich. axing Katich gives Aus opening problem still we suffered. Katich is the perfect man in India tour. Watto, Mitchy, Haddin, Hussey, homework, problems. Clarke is responsible for Oz downfall.

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 10:24 GMT)

Here's a novel Idea! Let the mom's and dads of these cricketing prodigies be responsible for discipline and character development of their Kid's and let the Kiddies have some fun and games with their mates in the clubs and backyards of Australia. Cricket is about having fun and the application, dedication and determination of those that chose it as a professional vocation is a result of those Kid's who have had so much fun as young kid's playing the game with their mates that they then decide that they wouldnt mind doing it full time for a living. In the meantime CA dont spoil it for the kids no matter how talented they are. Give them the space they need to enjoy the game. The game should be able to be played with a smile on ones face at every level.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (May 15, 2013, 10:10 GMT)

I've been reading Ian Chappell's latest book - Life, Larrikins & Cricket. There's a wonderful line by a journalist when changes are made to the Australian team for the 4th test of the 1965/65 Ashes series, including a recalled Chappell for his second cap.The journalist says the selectors are employing the TAB policy - Take Any Body. Off the topic a bit but I would prefer not waste words on this saga, lets look forward to the ashes and hope we don't get a repeat of this in July.

Posted by gsingh7 on (May 15, 2013, 10:08 GMT)

all that homework wud not make for lack of talents in spin department. ca must prepare spinning tracks in aus or similar whitewashes may follow as last time in india. hope we see better players of spin in aus in near future, otherwise they are doomed to go down the test rankings

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 9:58 GMT)

That was the most ridiculous decision I have ever seen. Firstly the whole task was managed very poorly. Some players were emailing essays whilst others were giving powerpoint presentations. If you want to treat them like school kids then have a proper structure, especially on submission. Secondly, Watson (they badly missed his bowling as he does reverse the bowl) is a very good all rounder, Pattinson was their best bowler. You are dropping them over not writing essays. Regarding the other two players, they never even played a game. The task was how to improve their game and what they learnt. I thought we learn from making mistakes. These players didn't play so how are they supposed to improve. It is like asking a kid on who he can improve when he never did the exam. Also despite Hughes poor form for rest of series I can't believe Khawaja didn't get a game, even in dead rubber.

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (May 15, 2013, 9:42 GMT)

Lets put this behind us, we have an ashes to win. Clarke, Warner and Khawaja to fire with the bat and the batsman must fire as the bowlers can't win the ashes on their own.

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 9:36 GMT)

Impossible to gain anything from this article, as @ Arivazhagan points out, there is just nothing said here!

@Meety, didn't know about those ODI's in October. That is indeed appalling, CA seems to be headed in the same direction as all the other financially impoverished nations of giving up to the BCCI whatever it wants. I think we have a lot of good young talent in Aus cricket but the full potential of it will not be realised while ever white ball cricket is prioritised. It is just not giving the likes of Starc, Smith, Hughes, Khawaja and others a chance to develop when they can't string more than 2-3 matches together before they are called up for a meaningless ODI tourney or the schedule gets changed over into T20 cash grabfests.

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 9:34 GMT)

Sorry Mr.Sutherland, controlling players or paying them well - which one would you prefer? Cricket fans attend and pay for players and players only. The establishment and officials should be relegated to back ground and work in consultation with them only. If you want to know how CA can earn well and also pay players very well, you cannot go back and think in terms of history nor consult officials. You need to come on board to Social media and talk to fans who matter they are the pay masters by watching TVs real matches,etc.. ceretainly you are not the paymaster to are just facilitator. I can meet and provide you solution that will make fans, cricket lovers happy - but if people sitting on the board veto everything, it is death-knell to cricket in Australia.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (May 15, 2013, 8:32 GMT)

To my mind the fact that this got to the stage of suspensions being necessary is far more of a problem than just poor communication by the coach and captain. Its indicative of a lack of team togetherness and a lack of authority and (earned) respect of those senior figures. If its a 'bad egg' in the playing group those persons should have their cards marked as unsuitable for national team selection .... if its poor leadership then the senior group should be on notice that they are on thin ice. Is there any indication that the underlying problems that lead to this debacle have been rectified? Well .... nothing in Sutherland's blatherfest gives me any comfort on that. Resilience as mentioned is a key quality ..... and appears lacking in this group. This was shown in the Perth SA Test and throughout the India series. England will know that if they start the First Test well they could break this Aust team and run away with the series as India did.

Posted by Meety on (May 15, 2013, 8:03 GMT)

The more I hear of Sutherland, the more I think Oz cricket is in BAD hands. He has got to go, he flip flopped thru the entire issue (apart from hiding from it in the first place) - on the one hand saying he "supported" home-workgate but at the same time saying "he's dissappointed it got to this stage.." & that there were communication issues. Sutherland should do us all a favour & resign. The shambles that is the domestic season is totally at his fault, that is - the schedule that saw TWO Australian sides playing simultaneously on two different continents! The same schedule, that will again next year see our players in India in October playing 8 useles limited over fixtures when they should be preparing for the Ashes! Sutherland do us all a favour & RESIGN!

Posted by spindizzy on (May 15, 2013, 7:34 GMT)

No problem with the over-officiousness of the management though I notice. They need to stop thinking management consultants have any answers, ever! It's deluded types like this who are the ones destroying the cricketers worth - the cult of CEOs being worth 1000x more than the individuals they 'lead'. And to suggest that Phil Hughes improved over the course of the tour is an exercise in delusion. His form against the moving ball was as poor at the end as the beginning.

They're blaming the workers for the flaws of the managers - as they always do.

Posted by badmanners on (May 15, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

"While Sutherland was hesitant to attribute the suspensions and their prelude to any one major factor, he conceded that communication within the team had broken down, leaving players unaware of how badly the team's captain Michael Clarke, coach Mickey Arthur and team manager Gavin Dovey felt that standards had slipped. "

So Michael, Mickey and Gavin are poor communicators, therefore 4 players get suspended? Yes the players concerned should have done there homework but surely it could have been handled better.

Posted by   on (May 15, 2013, 6:17 GMT)

This is how you use up a lot of words without actually saying something.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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