Sutherland to stay even if Ashes lost 5-0
James Sutherland's 12-year-old tenure as chief executive of Cricket Australia is so secure that not even a 5-0 defeat to England at home in the forthcoming Ashes series would be enough to remove him, the CA chairman, Wally Edwards, has said.
Following an AGM in Melbourne, CA laid out a strong financial position, to the point that the game's governors have set up a future fund that will peak at A$70 million in reserves. Edwards launched a fierce defence of his chief executive, with Sutherland himself rebuking Ricky Ponting's contention that the organisation lacked vision and ignored requests for greater forward thinking when the national team was strong.
Edwards confirmed that Sutherland was under contract until June 2015 following that year's World Cup, and that nothing would stop him from seeing out that term. "We want to see continued improvement," Edwards said. "If we lost the series 5-0, James Sutherland will still be the CEO of Australian cricket, and James is contracted through to June 2015 after the World Cup, and there will not be any changes in that situation, regardless of the way we perform on the field this summer.
"I don't know where the stories are coming from but they're not real in our world. I can reaffirm there is absolutely no discontent whatsoever with James' performance, and I'm bewildered where the story's come from, but you would understand that better than me. We're very confident where we're going. We have a solid plan and it's not just a plan for a quick fix, it's a plan for continued high performance of our men's and women's sides."
Sutherland defended his own position and that of the team performance manager Pat Howard, following comments by former coach Mickey Arthur that both men, alongside the captain Michael Clarke, would be under enormous pressure for their jobs should the Ashes be lost. But he saved his most pointed responses for Ponting's contention that CA had not responded to the requests of coaches and players to buttress the national team against coming storms when Australia was still the world's undisputed No.1.
"Over six years up to that time  we grew from $39 million dollars to $75 million of investment in high performance and elite teams, which includes player payments," Sutherland said. "Take player payments out of that, $7 million grew to $19 million in and around the team. That is not the sign of an organisation that is failing to invest in high performance activities.
"Ricky Ponting had no budget responsibility, and he didn't have any sort of view as to what the budget was. He wouldn't know. There might be things along the way he is looking for. In that same period the number of staff with the Australian team doubled. I'm not getting into a tit for tat conversation about Ricky Ponting. We will have our own private conversations as we have, and we understand each other very well. We are on very good terms."
When questioned on what goals were set for the improvement of the national team over the coming summer, Sutherland said that while he was naturally intent on ensuring that the Ashes be regained, there was a bigger picture to be aware of. Edwards and Sutherland have overseen major governance reform in Australian cricket, while also attempting to ensure the game is as well placed as possible to fight for talent and support in what the chief executive regards as the world's most competitive sporting landscape.
"It's not just about the team," Sutherland said. "What I am responsible for and what the management of Australian cricket is responsible for, which includes the state and territory cricket associations, is the strategy for Australian cricket, and delivering on all of those things. We've got an increasingly complex business in a highly competitive market. There's no other country in the world that has as much competitiveness for sport entertainment and elite talent as what there is in Australia.
"Therefore our strategy and the delivery of that strategy is incredibly important. We can only achieve the potential for our sport if we have all the moving parts going in the same direction. That's why the unification process for Australian cricket that we are going through right now is so important.
"We are very confident that with Wally as chairman and him working closely with state boards, and me working closely with the management teams of state associations, that we're going in the right direction. And I include cricket performance as well. This is not just business speak. This is talking about state associations taking responsibility for the development of cricket, [so] that [they] are ready to play cricket for Australia and win cricket matches."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here