Improving relationships between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) should be a priority for the governing body's next chief executive, according to the former captain and CA Board director Mark Taylor.
Speaking for the first time since James Sutherland's resignation as CEO after a tenure of more than 17 years, Taylor said that the leadership change was an opportunity for CA to refresh, and pointed to a better and more productive relationship with the players and their association as critical to the future.
Last year's pay dispute between the ACA and CA, as it sought to end the fixed revenue percentage model at the core of all collective agreements between the parties since 1998, created distance between CA and the national team that proved unhelpful when the behaviour of Steven Smith's team deteriorated on the tour of South Africa, culminating in the Newlands ball tampering scandal. That event took place a matter of weeks after Sutherland and CA had warned the team that higher standards of behaviour were expected than those seen in the first Test of the series at Durban.
"I think that's a fair comment," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo when asked whether CA and the national team needed to form a stronger relationship. "I think you've only got to see the MoU stuff last year, which in the end I think has worked out well for both sides. But we got there with too much head-banging.
"I think if there was a better relationship, full stop, we could have got to the same conclusion without a lot of angst. That's one area that both sides can improve, Cricket Australia and the players and the Australian Cricketers Association. I think if we get that better, that'll be good for cricket right throughout Australia."
Taylor's words will provide food for thought to many, given that CA's lead MoU negotiator Kevin Roberts is widely favoured to assume Sutherland's post. Roberts was unsuccessful in pushing a hard line with the ACA, allowing the nation's best players to fall out of contract and ultimately be sidelined from negotiations as Sutherland entered the fray to broker a compromise a matter of weeks before a Test tour of Bangladesh was threatened.
At the same, time the chairman David Peever, who with Roberts was seen as a major driver of the Board's adversarial industrial relations strategy, was endorsed to serve another three-year term, something Taylor said had been unavoidable due to the fact that Sutherland's departure called for some measure of stability at the top.
"David's got the unanimous support of the Board, he had that when we made the decision a few months ago and he still has it today," Taylor said. "There is a lot going on in the game of cricket at the moment, we've lost three players through an incident in Cape Town, they've lost a coach, we're now losing a CEO, John Warn leaving Cricket NSW [chairmanship], there is a lot of change going on.
"So it's good to have some stability at the same time. I think David will bring that to CA and sometimes a change is as good as a holiday. There'll be new people coming in, as we've seen with Justin Langer as coach, we'll have a new CEO at some stage over the next year to bring in some different ideas, thinking and processes, and I think it'll be a good refresh for the game.
"That'll be all post the reviews that are coming out in a couple of months' time. So it is a turbulent time - an interesting time for the game but a refreshing time for the game. Sutherland standing down was something [that] those of us in the inner sanctum knew was going to happen last year, so we knew there was change afoot. But when you have an incident like we did in Cape Town, you can't just say 'oh well things will change in the future', because people don't believe you."
The dual reviews currently being undertaken - one into the whole of Cricket Australia, another more specifically the men's national team - are set to provide the incoming chief executive with a roadmap for how to take the organisation forward. "We knew there was going to be a refresh of Australian cricket and I think in a way these reviews will certainly help us do that, focus our minds on how we refresh Australian cricket," Taylor said. "I know there's been a desire from some people to try to link James' exit with what has gone on in the last three months, and really they're not related.
"A lot of the big deals have been done, and now I think whoever does come in, be it he or she, will also have an independent document or documents to help them work out where we need to improve. Cricket Australia have had their hand up for a while to say 'let's get a body in to work out where we can improve, what areas we need to work on' and I think these will be great documents for he or she to have to start a new era of Australian cricket."
After the Nine Network lost the rights to broadcast cricket in Australia for the first time in 40 years, Taylor has re-signed for another three years with the broadcaster to continue working as a commentator and digital contributor. Nine retain the rights to next year's Ashes tour and also ICC global tournaments, including the 2019 World Cup and the World Twenty20, hosted by Australia in 2020. On Saturday night, Taylor will sit alongside the banished David Warner in the studio for the second ODI between Australia and England.
"As soon as we unfortunately lost the rights, they were very keen to grab hold of me and keep me because they want to keep some teeth in the game I think - contact with the game they've broadcast for 40 years," he said. "I'm delighted they've offered me the job and I was more than happy to stay - I've been there for 20-odd years now and looking forward to the next three.
"I'm sure David will have his opinions on how the team is going to go and what have you, but how much he talks about yesteryear and a few months ago will be up to David. I suspect it'll be more looking forward to how the side's going now and how David's going to approach trying to get back into the side in a year's time.
"I've had lunch with Smithy [Steve Smith] in recent times as I've done for a few years. If I know David, he'll obviously still be disappointed, saddened by what happened but he rebounds pretty quick, David, and I think he'll be very much looking forward to next year. If I know David at all I'm sure he'll be pretty perky and more so looking forward than looking back."