Australian cricket's owners will be asked to vote on the addition of a 10th director - the fourth independent director - to the Cricket Australia Board in a significant change to the governing body's constitution at its AGM later this month.
CA's intention is to hand the new position on the board to the ABC and Santos director, Dr Vanessa Guthrie, who has also served as deputy chair of the Western Australian Cricket Association in recent years and is the former chair of the Minerals Council of Australia.
While the state associations of New South Wales and Queensland have been successful in pushing for closer links between their nominated directors and the CA board itself, with the NSW director and former premier Mike Baird to join the board while Richard Freudenstein moves sideways into one of the independent spots, a counterbalance has been devised.
This will be in the form of adding a fourth director independent of the states, the better to fulfil the range of skills and backgrounds required of the CA board under the terms of its reshaping into a commission-style group in 2012, as opposed to the 14-member direct representative model that had existed for more than 100 years up to that point.
"New South Wales wanted to put up Mike Baird, so went through a number of discussions around that, we also think Richard Freudenstein's been an outstanding director, even more so at the moment given his media background, so we've moved him across as an independent and Mike Baird comes on," CA's chairman Earl Eddings told ESPNcricinfo.
"It's always very difficult with nine seats trying to meet all the requirements of diversity, ex-international players and skill sets. So we felt it was a prudent thing to take a bit of pressure off the states to put another independent there, so it gives us a bit more flexibility going forward. Vanessa's an outstanding candidate, so I think it's a win-win."
Such a change to the CA constitution must be agreed to by a two-thirds majority of the states, who at the AGM will each be represented by three voting representatives. This measure was itself a product of the political maneuvering required to move to an independent board, as the increase of all states to three votes - by a simple majority vote - was devised to circumvent South Australia's opposition to the removal of direct representation. Eddings is confident the move will be supported.
"All the directors have indicated to me they're keen to support it, they know Vanessa's the outstanding candidate and it gives us more opportunity to bring skill sets in and meet those other requirements," he said. "Most of the directors have come from state land, you look at Lachy Henderson [WA], John Harnden [SA], Paul Green [Tasmania], Michael Kasprowicz [Queensland], so we just want the best people we can possibly find on the board.
"It's very exciting to have Mike Baird come on and Vanessa. We've already got a good board, but this gives it more diversity and also geographic diversity too. For a range of reasons some of the state directors have come and lived in Melbourne for career choices. Having Vanessa on board from WA will be great geographically as well."
Guthrie's entry to the board would follow the exit of CA's first ever female board member and Bendigo Bank chair Jacquie Hey. It would also avert the possibility of leaving only two female directors on the board - Mel Jones (Victoria) and Michelle Tredenick (independent). This would contravene CA's own diversity target of 40% female representation at board level by 2022.
"Jacquie Hey was a fantastic director, she was high quality," Eddings said. "So it is fortunate we've got someone like Vanessa who we can call on. Jacquie would've stayed but with her roles with Bendigo Bank and Qantas she couldn't put the time into it that's now required. It is a time-consuming board compared to most others, so she'll be sadly missed but we're looking forward to welcoming Vanessa on.
"With any board you're looking at succession plans, we've already got a number of people on our board who can take over as chair, so it's always good to have more candidates, the more the better. It's one thing to have the ability to do the job but it's also the capacity to do it, knowing how time-consuming it is. So having more candidates on the board who have the capability to do that is fantastic."
Belinda Clark, who recently announced she would be exiting CA's executive after nearly 20 years in cricket administration, is widely seen as a likely board director in the future, while it is believed that CA's list of potential directors this year had included the former federal foreign minister Julie Bishop.
However the governance hackles raised by NSW and Queensland this year, to the point of questioning whether the CA board should move to a system of six direct state representatives on the board - eg. all concurrently members of state boards - have led to something of a compromise in allowing their chairmen John Knox and Chris Simpson to nominate current state directors for CA positions, meaning they will have strong relationships with their respective states even though they will still need to resign from those boards.
Baird is set to join the CA board in time for the AGM, while the process for Queensland's new director to replace Michael Kasprowicz, most likely the former Test wicketkeeper, commentator and Australian Cricketers Association president Ian Healy, will be completed shortly afterwards.
The other director up for re-election this year, Tasmania's Green, is set to continue after replacing Tony Harrison in 2018 and retaining the full confidence of the island state's association to be a link between state and national levels. Green is also chair of CA's audit and risk committee, and worked closely with the chairman Eddings on the often-fraught funding negotiations with the states this year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.