December 3, 2013

'It's good to live as normal a life as possible'

Keith Bradshaw battled cancer throughout 2013, but has happily declared himself fit for the Adelaide Ashes Test and cricket's many challenges beyond

As he oversees the first Test at the new Adelaide Oval, Keith Bradshaw will keep in mind a pending appointment of an altogether different nature. At the conclusion of his match duties as chief executive of the South Australian Cricket Association, Bradshaw is scheduled to check back in for a final round of chemotherapy, the last step in his successful scotching of myeloma for a second time.

He will do so with full knowledge that eventually this incurable cancer will return again. But not, he hopes, before he can further pursue his knack for innovative, intelligent and sparky cricket administration. Bradshaw is highly regarded in England for his stewardship of Lord's as chief executive of the MCC, and has earned a similarly lofty reputation with the SACA.

He kept going to work throughout his treatment earlier this year, securing Adelaide's Test match against India next summer before the chemo robbed him of his formerly thick black hair. Sitting in his office, temporarily located in the Adelaide suburb of Wayville while the redevelopment is completed, the first signs of Bradshaw's renewal are happily evident.

"It's really about keeping a positive attitude, especially when you're going through the treatment with chemotherapy and steroids and thalidomide and all the other drugs that are thrown at you," he said. "I just felt you could go home every day and sleep all day and hide away from the world, but the day you do that, you'll do it every day rather than getting up and going to work. So I pushed myself.

"I enjoy the challenge and the stimulation of work, but I think it's good to live as normal a life as possible. People react in different ways, of course, but I've been very blessed in how my body has coped through all this. It was pretty devastating earlier this year to get the news that the myeloma had returned. I underwent a period of chemotherapy and steroids and the like, then had another stem cell transplant. Fortunately I had some frozen still in the UK, so they were shipped out.

"I did my time in the isolation ward again and I was very lucky to come through it. I'll have some more chemo after the Test as a precautionary measure. It's undetectable at the moment but myeloma is a treatable but not curable cancer. It'll come back, and the reality is one day it'll come back stronger than the last time."

The first time Bradshaw fought off myeloma was during his five years at the MCC, a posting he embraced with all the understandable vigour of a former Australian state cricketer granted the keys to Lord's. His time in the hallowed corridors was punctuated by innovation and occasional hints of revolution, as he took an active role not only in the installation of lights at the home of cricket but also in a significant reappraisal of the English game.

He was part of the ECB board that hastened Duncan Fletcher's exit as coach of the national team, and he also engaged in several battles to bring a full-fledged T20 club competition to England. There were numerous differences of opinion with Giles Clarke, notably over the ECB chairman's preference for courting Allen Stanford over Lalit Modi. Nonetheless, the pair will greet each other warmly in Adelaide this week.

"I wouldn't change anything. I did what I felt was the best for the MCC and for cricket generally," Bradshaw said. "Whilst my vision that I shared with a number of others didn't necessarily come to fruition on all occasions, I certainly respect that people have different views - T20 was one of those. It was a time of my life I really enjoyed, it was only family reasons for coming back, but it was a real privilege to have held that position for five years.

"Scheduling is a huge issue and a huge challenge for the game. That really drives the whole of the game in terms of revenues and how that can then flow into game development and other areas"

"Giles and I had great respect for each other… we didn't see eye to eye on everything, but certainly left on good terms and with a great deal of respect for the job he's done."

While Bradshaw's firm belief in a club/franchise model for T20 competition attracted the most attention, one of his proudest achievements in England was securing a change from the counter-productive bidding model for international fixtures. Two years of considerable agitating for change eventually drew the creation of a system that is less likely to send counties teetering towards bankruptcy in their efforts to outstrip rivals for Test matches.

"For the allocation of Test matches in Australia there is a model and we know if there are five Tests they will be shared around the mainland, and if there's a sixth, it goes to Tasmania," he said. "But in England we found ourselves in that bidding war for a period of time, which I worked very hard with a group of the chief executives to change. It is now more of a qualitative approach, rather than whoever bids the most gets the Test matches.

"I had a very strong view that it wasn't the best model for the game in England, because effectively by bidding against each other the individual grounds' cost price for hosting any international match went up. If your costs go up, your ticket prices go up, if your ticket prices go up, your crowds go down, if your crowds go down, your broadcasting revenue goes down, and you end up in this spiral heading down rather than up. That was my main concern about that bidding war. So I was pretty happy after about two years' worth of lobbying we managed to change that system."

By 2011 it was time Bradshaw to return home. His father's ailing health at home in Tasmania played a major part in the decision, which led to the role as chief executive of South Australia, one of the few cricket associations able to rival the MCC for prestige and conservatism. He has enjoyed bringing Adelaide Oval's multi-purpose plans to fruition, and accepts that if the new drop-in pitch does not stand up to scrutiny, the vast scale of the new stands will not be adequate compensation. Despite the ground's management by the Orwellian-sounding Stadium Management Authority, Bradshaw confesses to hating the word stadium.

The return to Australia coincided with a period of introspection about the game in this country, leaving Bradshaw uniquely placed to assess Cricket Australia's efforts to unify the vision of the states and the central office in Jolimont. He believes the CA chief executive, James Sutherland, deserves credit for a new governance structure, financial modelling and better lines of communication, but concedes the issue of scheduling remains a major concern.

"Scheduling is a huge issue and a huge challenge for the game, not just in Australia but all around the world, in terms of the balance between the three formats," he said. "It's hugely complex but I can't think of anything as important as getting that scheduling right. That really drives the whole of the game in terms of revenues and how that can then flow into game development and other areas.

"There's a great deal of effort going into it, I don't think we've cracked it yet, and I think that's where we all as administrators have a role to play and to recognise all the competing demands, but not be making decisions purely on a financial basis. It needs to consider financials, it needs to consider the players, but it also needs to consider our consumers. I don't think we've achieved the optimal balance yet."

Scheduling receded instantly in importance when Bradshaw was again diagnosed with myeloma, this time after it had eaten away at his hip and pelvis. Facing cancer a second time, he was at once worried and fortified by the memories of his previous brush with appointments, clinics, drugs and medical forecasts. He is grateful both to the SACA for their understanding but also to the wider cricket public, who contributed generously to a provident fund set up in his name.

"When you start the treatment again it's deja vu, I remember that feeling now," he said. "Like anyone I'd hoped my remission would be a lot longer, and had hoped it would be 10-20 years before it came back, but it came back in under five. You just need to deal with that. People were incredibly supportive, the SACA's been incredibly supportive and friends and family - you just draw on that support.

"The important thing is to stay positive, because once you drop your bundle I think people do around you as well, and the negativity becomes infectious. I always try to stay positive but I've had amazing support. There are other people that are so much worse off. I'm in remission again, I'm leading a pretty much normal life and I feel very blessed that I can do that."

Bradshaw's first affiliation with Adelaide Oval was as a promising young Tasmanian batsman in the late 1980s. He stood in the field as David Hookes and Wayne Phillips put on 462 in March 1987, ruing the friendly batting turf he is now responsible for. Twenty-six years later, he quips that a new hip and a reconstructed pelvis have him ready to play in the Ashes. "Not sure I could quite bowl 20 overs upwind," he said, "but I'll give it a crack..."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Keep well mate! Ground looks superb - a testament to what can be achieved, when not ruled by committee.........

  • on December 5, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    Hi Keith, so pleased you are so positive - I do keep track on you and admire your courage and commitment. I do believe that positivity has kept me going also. turned 77 this year and have now been in w/chair 64 years and still in my unit. Congrats on the SA cricket ground - just watching the cricket now and everyone is saying how excellent the ground will be when fully completed. Take care, Jenny

  • zoot364 on December 4, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    Good luck Keith. You were such a breath of fresh air at Lord's and did more to change the outlook of MCC than anyone I can recall. Long may you flourish.

  • nmparker on December 4, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Keith Bradshaw is a true inspiration. A gentleman from our days way back at Elizabeth Matriculation College and NewTown cricket club. You have had an oustanding career and have had many oustanding achievements. We pray for your speedy recovery and continued success. Hope to catch up with you sometime. Regards. Noor Parker

  • on December 4, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    Hats off to you Sir!!! Truly inspiring story. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery and praying to God that you continue to serve this beautiful game for many more years to come.

  • on December 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Keep well mate! Ground looks superb - a testament to what can be achieved, when not ruled by committee.........

  • on December 5, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    Hi Keith, so pleased you are so positive - I do keep track on you and admire your courage and commitment. I do believe that positivity has kept me going also. turned 77 this year and have now been in w/chair 64 years and still in my unit. Congrats on the SA cricket ground - just watching the cricket now and everyone is saying how excellent the ground will be when fully completed. Take care, Jenny

  • zoot364 on December 4, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    Good luck Keith. You were such a breath of fresh air at Lord's and did more to change the outlook of MCC than anyone I can recall. Long may you flourish.

  • nmparker on December 4, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Keith Bradshaw is a true inspiration. A gentleman from our days way back at Elizabeth Matriculation College and NewTown cricket club. You have had an oustanding career and have had many oustanding achievements. We pray for your speedy recovery and continued success. Hope to catch up with you sometime. Regards. Noor Parker

  • on December 4, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    Hats off to you Sir!!! Truly inspiring story. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery and praying to God that you continue to serve this beautiful game for many more years to come.

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  • on December 4, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    Hats off to you Sir!!! Truly inspiring story. Here's wishing you a speedy recovery and praying to God that you continue to serve this beautiful game for many more years to come.

  • nmparker on December 4, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Keith Bradshaw is a true inspiration. A gentleman from our days way back at Elizabeth Matriculation College and NewTown cricket club. You have had an oustanding career and have had many oustanding achievements. We pray for your speedy recovery and continued success. Hope to catch up with you sometime. Regards. Noor Parker

  • zoot364 on December 4, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    Good luck Keith. You were such a breath of fresh air at Lord's and did more to change the outlook of MCC than anyone I can recall. Long may you flourish.

  • on December 5, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    Hi Keith, so pleased you are so positive - I do keep track on you and admire your courage and commitment. I do believe that positivity has kept me going also. turned 77 this year and have now been in w/chair 64 years and still in my unit. Congrats on the SA cricket ground - just watching the cricket now and everyone is saying how excellent the ground will be when fully completed. Take care, Jenny

  • on December 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Keep well mate! Ground looks superb - a testament to what can be achieved, when not ruled by committee.........