Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, has spoken of his shock at being told by the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland that "no one ever spends money when they are going well", a statement emblematic of the complacency Ponting believes has contributed to the nation's slide from the top of the game.
Sutherland's words were uttered during a conversation at the 2011 SCG Ashes Test, which Australia lost by an innings to complete a 3-1 series defeat at home that hastened the Argus review and the departures of former coach Tim Nielsen, the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch, the chief of cricket operations Michael Brown and Ponting himself as captain.
Don Argus' report into the Australian team's performance brought a host of new appointments and a changed management structure, but Ponting has maintained that many of these supposed innovations had been advocated for as much as a decade by himself and Nielsen's predecessor, John Buchanan. Ponting told ESPNcricinfo he was stunned at Sutherland's lack of foresight, and believed Buchanan had risked his job more than once while advocating change when the team were enjoying their years of plenty.
"When he said that it was like 'What? What are you talking about'," Ponting said while discussing his autobiography At the close of play. "I said then 'Tiger Woods has just won the US Open, he'll be on the driving range tomorrow morning trying to make his swing better for next year and putting all his time and effort to make it better because he knows he's not the same player and he'll need to do things differently to win again next year'."
"But there was no foresight at all into where we were going. Buck was always ridiculed for asking for things. He saw where the game was going to go, and all the stuff that came out with the Argus review was the stuff Buck was talking about 10 years ago, and he was shut down and almost pushed out of his job because of where he thought the game was going to go."
When asked whether or not Sutherland had been held accountable for the slip in the national team's fortunes, and those of the the supporting competitions beneath, Ponting said that while the CA balance sheet was strong, other areas had been either neglected or cut back in favour of stratagems like the Twenty20 Big Bash League. He advocated greater CA control over the goals of the states and the preparation of domestic pitches.
"Business-wise and the last couple years in particular you'd say CA has done a really good job with making the BBL the success they have and other things they've done," Ponting said. "But it's been at the detriment of something else. State cricket's funding and coaches that work with them. One thing I think they should do is CA should employ all the state coaches. Take it out of the state's hands altogether.
"CA should employ them, then they can have some sort of input into the wickets they produce and the teams they pick. Because what we've got now is Queensland winning their first five games at home every year on green wickets. Tassie, to keep up, do the same thing. SA did the same thing last year where they had seaming wickets and Chadd Sayers took 50 wickets on Adelaide Oval. Where's all the spinners?
"They've got to have some sort of control over it, otherwise as professionals coaches have to look after themselves. They have to keep themselves in a job, so it's all about winning which you can understand and it should be. But conditions around the country have got to get back to what they used to be, and each ground have the characteristics they had when I started, which was how you learned a more rounded game."
Another area Ponting believes CA became complacent was in assuming the next generation of young players would spring up to take the place of the previous generation, leading to the early dumping of Simon Katich. Ponting has written that this decision flabbergasted him, but it was not the only call that did so.
"My view on selection is you only ever make a change if it's going to make the team better," he said. "A lot of the changes we made didn't make the team better, and I don't care what anybody says. The coach (Tim Nielsen) going when he did didn't make the team better. I think a lot of the stuff that happened with the Argus review was premeditated stuff that was already in the pipeline and they put this panel together to justify it.
"My meeting around the Argus review lasted less than an hour. I was dressed in a suit, prepared, notes, I thought I was going to be there all day, thrash everything out for six hours, get my opinions and views on everything. But they asked me a few questions, asked me who was accountable, and I was out. I said to James 'I need to have a chat to you outside', we did and it was just like they didn't really want to hear it."