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Sutherland's job guaranteed by CA chairman

Daniel Brettig in Taunton

June 25, 2013

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Channel Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell at the announcement of Australian cricket's new broadcast deal
James Sutherland (middle) is facing his biggest crisis after one of his biggest triumphs - negotiating a A$500 million deal for domestic broadcast rights © Getty Images
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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 here

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Posted by Cricket_Froth on (June 26, 2013, 21:55 GMT)

@ Jono Makim

It's not necessarily about expecting to convert all T20 fans and commercial partners to other forms of cricket, such as Test. It is about promoting and showcasing other areas of our game. If we get 20% of the new fans and commercial partners involved in T20 to take some interest in other forms of the game then that is a huge boost. It requires a progressive strategy of engagement and a lot of vision and creativity. It's an opportunity most other sports do not possess and one that cricket simply cannot afford to ignore. In fact, I strongly believe ICC should have a developed plan along these lines too. Sutherland has failed to recognise and articulate a plan to capitalise on this huge opportunity and for that alone, it's time to move on.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

When Boards come out with statements like this it usually means they've said, "James, find another job so you can resign and leave us without mud on our faces. And so you can leave with dignity. Thanks for your work and all that, but game over mate."

Posted by Meety on (June 26, 2013, 13:42 GMT)

@Chris_P on (June 25, 2013, 22:54 GMT) - Sutherland should of resigned with Arthurs. He has chopped everyone else off along the way - well past time to go. Some of the statemnets he has made over the years - suggests to me he is astoundingly clueless.

Posted by jkumara on (June 26, 2013, 11:01 GMT)

Wally Edwards? who is he? Has anyone heard of him? what a joke...Austrialian cricket is facing the inevitable and will take time to recover...probably after Michale Cleark RETIRES...........

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

@test_cricket_is_better,

I don't really agree on a couple of fronts, firstly T20 is a vastly different product to test and shield cricket, that they attract completely different audiences makes it difficult to expect that advertisers may want to target all of them. Non cricketers are never going to get excited about Shield cricket, whereas they may just turn out in droves for a T20 game.

Lehmann was there in charge of the Aussie A team and as such I don't think its too big of a stretch to imagine that CA saw him as the best option to take over.

@Chris_P, Certainly not the kind of headline i'd like to see!

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (June 26, 2013, 8:16 GMT)

@Chris_P, was going to say the same thing,based on UK football teams, when a board states such things then that usually means they need to start looking for alterative employment.

I suspect we might see him fall on his sword after Christmas, especially if Aus dont regain the ashes on home soil or push england to a credible result.

Posted by littleduck on (June 26, 2013, 7:48 GMT)

smokem - Wally Edwards opened the batting for Australia for a Test or two in the early 70s. He's been around for a while.

Posted by smokem on (June 26, 2013, 0:56 GMT)

What a joke... I guess it's all about financial performance and the new TV deal is a much great performance indicator than the state of Australian cricket.

And who is Wally Edwards? Never heard of the guy and he's supposed to be the chairman? Sounds like the boys have each other's backs. I think they both need to find other jobs to stuff up...

Posted by Chris_P on (June 25, 2013, 22:54 GMT)

Not wanting to cast doubts or anything, but given recently history with our football codes, when the board says the Manager's/Coach/CEO position is safe, inevitably, there is a turnover shortly after. Let's see.

Posted by Cricket_Froth on (June 25, 2013, 22:53 GMT)

The "triumphant" deal with nine - who cannot even deliver coverage in high definition 2013, even though SBS did this as early as the 2009 Ashes - leaves a lot of cricket fans questioning the future direction of cricket. Sutherland has presided over an ill-conceived T20 Big Bash - ill-conceived because there is no clear strategy to convert the new fans and commercial partners T20 may attract into other forms of the game, such as Shield & Test cricket. This is unforgiveable, if you have a vehicle that generates new interest you must use it to duplicate that in other areas of cricket. Sutherland has also allowed the sacking to occur 2 weeks prior to an Ashes, allowing a meltdown in our enemy's backyard. Lehmann is a great candidate, but the process seems driven more by practicality - Lehmann was already on-site in England - rather than a competitive, professional recruitment process that should have occurred months ago. Sutherland is responsible for a great many failings, time to move on.

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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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