Triple Olympic gold medal-winning rower Drew Ginn and longtime Justin Langer collaborator Ben Oliver have been formally commissioned as the new high performance executives for Cricket Australia, taking joint control of an area that sprawled into such vast territory under the former czar Pat Howard that the governing body deemed it too large for one person to run.
Howard was sacked by the new chief executive Kevin Roberts shortly after he replaced James Sutherland, in the wake of the damning Ethics Centre review of Australian cricket culture that was ordered after the Newlands ball tampering scandal last year. A lengthy search for Howard's replacement has seen the role filled temporarily by the executive in charge of community cricket, Belinda Clark, as CA stopped and then redefined the recruiting process as being for two jobs rather than one. Ginn will be based in Melbourne and Oliver in Brisbane with the pair starting on July 29.
While Howard joined cricket "cold" in 2011, following a career in rugby union, pharmacy and property development, Ginn has moved across from his background in rowing and the Olympic movement via two years as the head of high performance with Tasmania. He will take control of a role primarily responsible for the running of domestic competitions, Australian youth teams, player, coach and umpire pathways including club cricket, talent ID and sports science.
"I am looking forward to joining Cricket Australia and having the opportunity to work more broadly across the National system," Ginn said. "The past two years with Cricket Tasmania have been immensely rewarding.
"This is a chance to continue the work I have enjoyed locally and to now work closely with many great people involved in leading our domestic, national and youth competitions along with the leaders of our State programs, and those leaders in our Cricket Australia pathway programs, and our sports science and sports medicine areas."
Peter Roach, the head of cricket operations, will report to Ginn. Roach has also taken over control of scheduling, an area of some difficulty for CA in recent times after India insisted on an ODI tour in mid-January next year. The Big Bash League, Sheffield Shield and domestic one-day tournament programs for next summer are still to be announced.
Oliver, a former first-class player for Victoria and Tasmania, held roles with CA, Cricket Victoria and the ICC before working closely with Langer as the high performance manager for Western Australia since 2012. Together, they established a program that was the envy of other states, notably by their use of a squad closely unified between the WA state team and the Perth Scorchers BBL club - a model subsequently used unashamedly by Tasmania and the Hobart Hurricanes.
"I have devoted most of my adult life to cricket, in both playing and high-performance roles, and I am extremely proud and humbled to continue that association as EGM, National Teams," Oliver said. "I look forward to working with Justin Langer and Matthew Mott and their national men's and women's teams, as well as national selectors and all those involved in team operations and logistics."
Among the first items on Oliver's to-do list will be a look at the national selection panel, which will be shorn of the national talent manager Greg Chappell, currently with the Australian team on World Cup assignment, when he retires at the end of the Ashes series. Having already lost Mark Waugh, who was not replaced last year, that would leave only Langer and the chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, as formal members of the panel.
Howard's tenure featured no end of issues, as he sought to work as a change agent to pursue goals outlined in the 2011 Don Argus-led review of Australian team performance, which followed the hefty loss of the Ashes 3-1 at home to England in 2010-11. His hard-nosed and confrontational style did not always go down well across the Australian system, particularly when added to his lack of a cricket background.
Alongside numerous issues of workload management for fast bowlers in particular, Howard's term saw the 2013 homework scandal in India that contributed to the sacking of Mickey Arthur to be replaced by Darren Lehmann in 2013, the death of Phillip Hughes in 2014 and subsequent work to change concussion protocols in the game, winning the World Cup in 2015 on home soil and then suffering a dramatic Ashes defeat in England later that same year.
Another run of losses in late 2016, including Test series defeats by Sri Lanka away and South Africa at home, led to Rod Marsh's resignation as selection chairman and a refocus on the demands for strong performance by the Australian team - Howard and Sutherland visited the team dressing room in Hobart to push that message directly. Results did improve, including a narrow series defeat against a highly fancied India in India in 2017, and the regaining of the Ashes at home in 2017-18, before the Newlands scandal in South Africa led to many changes, including the end of Howard's time in the job.
Clark was left to run the department while a replacement could be found, and it was her opinion that the executive general manager's role had to be split in two. "Australian cricket owes Belinda a debt of gratitude for the exceptional job she has performed throughout a challenging time for Australian cricket," Roberts said. "She is one of our game's greatest trailblazers and servants at all levels and we are delighted that she will resume her role as EGM of Community Cricket in late August after handing over to Ben and Drew and having a well-earned break. It is a critical role and a job she loves."