Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Bangladesh's inaugural Test victory over Australia in Dhaka last year was belittled by Cricket Australia's team performance chief Pat Howard as being achieved by players who were not up to Sheffield Shield standard, a new book has revealed.
In Australia's first Test after the fractious 2017 pay dispute, an underprepared team lost narrowly to Bangladesh on a sharply turning pitch and were immediately leapt upon by sections of the media as overpaid prima donnas. In Gideon Haigh's Crossing The Line, an account of the build-up to this year's ball-tampering scandal, Howard is shown to have harangued senior figures across Australian cricket in an emailed reaction to the defeat.
"I am sitting in a cafe in Dhaka hotel at the conclusion of the first Test loss ever to Bangladesh. I am personally embarrassed and take accountability and happy to accept any criticism that comes our way," Howard wrote. "For some of you sitting here in Dhaka you are fully aware of how poor a result this is and you have a material opportunity to address in the next few days.
"Rightly the system is often judged on the outcomes of the national team. As you can imagine there are many questions being asked of us, and I think they are fair. I am reasonably confident that many of the players that have just beaten us would not get a run in any of the state teams.
"To the CA Team Performance - When you go home at the end of the day, does what you do actually make a difference? CA spends over $100m on players' wages and teams, all in the effort of producing great national teams. We have failed, you have failed and I have failed and it is not good enough."
Howard's unflattering depiction of the Bangladesh side Australia had just lost to was followed by an improved performance and a victory by the tourists in the second Test, but also by the cancellation of Bangladesh's scheduled visit to Australia for Tests this year. It is part of a wider picture painted by Haigh of arrogance and disconnection in Australian cricket, a sobering tale for the new chief executive, Kevin Roberts.
Elsewhere, Haigh depicts the growing problems confronted by Australia's ODI team, which one player described as being nothing like a team, while another criticised the former coach Darren Lehmann's lack of detailed information about how to improve performances. "A player summed up the one-day side in a word: 'Individuals'. There were no basics, no planning. You got together in the morning, went your separate ways at night. It never felt like an Australian 'team' in any sense of the word."
"Another player felt that Lehmann had fallen into this coaching fashion simply through running short of things to say: 'I love Boof. He's got a great heart and he loves the players. But, really, he hardly coached technique at all. 'You're struggling? Just whack it.' 'You're going for runs? Just bowl yorkers.' 'We'll smash them.' He really just had no other answers but to try and build up this arrogance.'"
Haigh, one of the world's foremost cricket writers, authored with David Frith the official history of Cricket Australia in 2007. The picture painted by Crossing The Line is of much that has happened since, focusing on the fact that, as an unaccountable monopoly, the governing body has become arrogant, secretive and inconsistent.
"Cricket Australia operates as monopoly and monopsony, unregulated, unrestricted and untaxed," Haigh writes. "If one wishes to work in the sport, there is every incentive to stay the right side of the country's sole promoter of cricket attractions and employer of cricket talent. Over the last decade, the organisation has also grown increasingly secretive and sensitive - paradoxically, with each year that it has grown richer and more powerful.
"Some who've raised questions these last few years have been penalised for their trouble. Asked to sum up the culture of Australian cricket, one of my interviewees put it more succinctly than I ever could: 'Bullies and sycophants.' Said another, by way of contrast: '[Australian rules] Football gives you one in the belly. Cricket gives you one in the back. It is full of good haters.' Quoting them directly would hardly improve their employment prospects. But these voices do need a hearing."
Crossing The Line will be published this month by Slattery Media, in advance of the independent cultural review conducted by the Ethics Centre's Simon Longstaff and set to be released imminently by CA.