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June 25, 2013
Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards has given his chief executive James Sutherland the full support of the board, but there is no reason to believe that means what it usually does.
As CEO of the game's governing body in Australia since 2001, Sutherland is facing the kind of pressure he has artfully avoided for most of a 12-year tenure, for his role in Australian cricket's descent into a pronounced dive. The sacking of Mickey Arthur and his replacement by Darren Lehmann a mere two weeks before the start of an Ashes series has led to serious questions about how Sutherland allowed the national team to reach a point of such disarray before intervening.
However Edwards was unequivocal in his support for Sutherland, who recently negotiated a new A$500 million domestic television rights deal and remains secure in his position. There is no indication of the board offering its full support immediately before choosing to reach for the knife in the time-honoured manner. "Absolutely, without question," Edwards told The Age when asked whether Sutherland had the board completely in his corner. "We are very comfortable with the way things are tracking at that level."
Arguably the least visible chairman among cricket's Full Member nations, Edwards stood to one side and watched Sutherland and the team performance manager Pat Howard explain at a press conference in Bristol why they had decided to jettison Arthur little more than halfway into a three-year contract. Edwards' amiable, quiet way of doing business has been similar to Sutherland, but he supported the decisive action that took place before the Ashes squad assembled in Taunton.
"That's the reason for changing coaches, that things were not progressing the way we wanted, so that hard decision was made," Edwards said. "That came initially from management. It would have been easy to ignore, to say let's leave it for another year or six months and let the contract run its course, but we didn't. That is what I call managing the business."
Sutherland and Howard were both offsite during the dramas of the India tour, leaving Arthur to mete out a punishment that caused former England captain Michael Atherton to suggest in The Times the coach had been guaranteed to lose his job the moment he decided to suspend four players from a Test match for failing to follow instructions. Edwards did not deny more needed to be done.
''That was a difficult time, no question, and it's in those circumstances that the stress levels rise and issues that exist burst forth. That is what happened," Edwards said. "We all wish that hadn't happened, but it did happen. There are probably still issues there to be resolved. We will see how the new coach and new structure works.
"In hindsight you can always do things better, but at the time it was a fast-moving issue and management and the board grappled with it as best we could with the information we had. We did what we thought was right at the time and backed management on the ground."
Sutherland did his share of deflecting in Bristol when pushed on whether he had considered his own position, and whether he had let things get out of hand just as Arthur, captain Michael Clarke and the team management had done in India and then during the Champions Trophy.
"I don't think it's about me at all but it is about Australian cricket fans and what they want and expect from Australian cricketers," Sutherland said. "It's certainly caused me to reflect on issues and performance-related matters that as an organisation we need to take responsibility for."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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