James Sutherland, Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer Speech at the Spirit of Cricket launch
WACA GROUND, PERTH 7 OCTOBER 2003
Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for coming along today.
I'm very pleased to be up here today with the captains of Australia's senior cricket teams and I congratulate Steve, Ricky and Belinda for the sensational achievements they and their teams have achieved over the last 12 months.
It has been a very busy 12 months in Australian cricket and the on-field successes are there for all to see.
- The Ashes.
- The VB Series
- The women's Ashes and ODI series.
- The World Cup.
- The Frank Worrell trophy.
- A clean sweep in the inaugural Bangladesh series.
At the same time there has been plenty going on behind the scenes at Cricket Australia.
At the end of last summer, we started talking about increasing our focus on what we call "the spirit of cricket".
In mid-2002, the "Spirit of Cricket" was identified as one of our four main strategic priorities.
So, why is it a priority?
Well, the appeal of the game of cricket in this country is not just limited to the strong history, tradition and culture of cricket. It is also about the way the game is played by Australians.
It is important that parents and teachers continue to feel comfortable about children taking up the game.
Winning at the elite level is important.
In recent times we have been spoilt by the performances of our elite cricketers.
The current Test team scores its runs at a superior strike rate to any team in the game's history. Batting or bowling, the team plays positive, attacking cricket and wins.
This brings and keeps fans in the game. It encourages sponsors into the game.
And together, the fans and sponsors provide the dollars to keep the game healthy.
HOW WE PLAY
The spirit in which the game is played is just as important - whether it be in the schoolyard, the local suburban oval or at international level.
It is not well understood that the official Laws of Cricket recognise this.
The preamble to the Laws of Cricket says:
- Cricket is a game that owes much of its appeal to the fact that it is played not just within the laws of the game, but also within the spirit of the game.
- Any action seen as abusing the spirit of cricket causes injury to the game itself.
The official laws - - and we have copies here today for you - - require players to respect opponents, umpires and the game's traditions and values.
The major responsibility for this rests with captains. All captains, no matter the grade or competition...
Embracing the spirit of cricket means participating fairly and with respect, as a player, umpire or coach.
That doesn't mean the game shouldn't be played hard. It is the Australian way.
Australian cricket has always been played hard.
But playing hard does not prevent us playing fair and in the right spirit.
So what have we been doing since last season on the spirit of cricket?
- We have talked to the Australian Cricketers' Association and reviewed our Code of Behaviour to make it clearer, and more aligned with the ICC Code which governs international cricket matches.
- Cricket Australia has worked with the State Cricket Associations on educating and supporting umpires and captains in their roles.
- We have worked with the Code of Behaviour Commissioners to clarify our expectations on enforcement of the codes.
- And we have upgraded player education at a state and national level, including through the distribution of 20,000 copies of the laws of cricket and its messages on the spirit of cricket.
- State associations have also worked with their state and district cricket captains to ensure they understand their role and the expectations of them to be role models for this project.
- At junior level, we have reviewed and reinforced messages on the spirit of cricket starting with the MILO Have-A-Go program.
At the top end of Australian cricket, we have sat down on a number of occasions with the leadership group of the men's team to talk through the issues.
Our players are under extraordinary and increasing scrutiny, both on and off the field, as role models and ambassadors for the game.
They in turn have privately discussed and developed their own definition of how they want to play the game.
It is their definition, they developed it themselves, and a copy has been provided to you in today's media kit.
I will leave it to Steve and Ricky to take your questions on it in a moment.
Whilst today is about Australian cricket at all levels from juniors up, it is inevitable that primary focus on this subject will come back to our national team.
I want to digress from the spirit of cricket initiatives for a moment to talk about the Australian men's teams.
At international level, Australian players have had a reputation for on field toughness.
But while acknowledging some failures, I honestly think the perception and the reality are a little out of alignment.
I have said before that today's Australian teams are victims of their own success, because that success raises the standards expected of them as role models.
The word "sledging" is often associated with this team. If sledging is personal abuse of an opposition player why is it that no Australian player has been reported for such an offence in the last couple of years?
I was pleased to hear ICC management report last month at a conference in India that according to umpires and match referees, Australian team behaviour has improved significantly over the last year.
This Australian team is under enormous scrutiny and the slightest hiccup gets reported in detail.
Fair enough, we accept that this is a reflection on the popularity of the game. It is also accepted that responsibility for one's own behaviour and maintaining appropriate standards will continue to protect and enhance the great game of cricket.
Let me return my focus to broader Australian cricket and some of the things we are doing:
- On the encouragement side, the States and Cricket Australia are reinforcing and rewarding good behaviour with Spirit of Cricket team awards for district and premier cricket - some states, including WA, have made a head start in previous years.
- We are all working on a consistent, national basis and this will include a new Spirit of Cricket Award for the state side which plays Pura/ING cricket in a way which best reflects the Spirit of Cricket.
- Similar awards will be made for women's cricket and under-age interstate tournaments.
- They will be presented at the end of the season and will be determined by umpire voting, and
- We will encourage public scrutiny by publishing progressive votes through the season.
Before I hand over to Steve and Ricky, let me emphasise that the Spirit of Cricket is about all of Australian cricket, men and women, boys and girls - from back yard to Baggy Green.
It is about Australian cricket, not just Cricket Australia. And getting it right is about the future of our game.
It's about ensuring that cricket continues to be Australia's favourite sport.
Thank you, and for those of you here for the rest of the week, I look forward to seeing you here at the WACA for Australia's first ever home Test match against Zimbabwe.