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Nick Hockley awaits CA chief verdict after 11-month interview

The interim chief pitches his vision with eye on permanent Cricket Australia CEO role

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
"I also think we've got a very big role to play internationally, and certainly supporting world cricket..." - Nick Hockley  •  Getty Images

"I also think we've got a very big role to play internationally, and certainly supporting world cricket..." - Nick Hockley  •  Getty Images

A little under than a year ago, Nick Hockley cut an understandably stunned figure on the Zoom call to confirm his appointment as the interim Cricket Australia chief executive following the unceremonious departure of Kevin Roberts.
Hockley is 11 months older and infinitely wiser now, but retains the understated, even reticent visage - he could, at times, pass for an English rom-com character in the vein of Hugh Grant - implicit in the fact that, for all the work done to pull off the Covid-19 summer of 2020-21, he retains that pesky "interim" before the lofty CEO title.
This week, as CA moves into the interview phase of the governing body's sift through Hockley's fellow suitors for the permanent gig, he has had to deal with the "bruising" rehash of unanswered questions from the Newlands scandal. It's been an episode typical of the many other spot-fires Hockley and CA have had to wade through, even as they begin the big picture strategy discussions that will determine Australian cricket's direction over the next five years or more.
"The fact I've been acting in the role has not slowed up any of the work," Hockley told ESPNcricinfo. "It's great that the Board is running a thorough process, it's a very important job and an absolute privilege to do this job. I've thrown my hat in the ring and I'll continue to do it to the best of my ability until I'm told not to.
"I've been working in Australian cricket for nine years, but certainly the last 11 months has been the most challenging and the most rewarding. I've learned more in the last 11 months than I have previously. Certainly I've built lots of new relationships, I've gained a significant amount of business intelligence, and as an organisation and a broader network, we've certainly grown in terms of our problem-solving capability, our agility. Cricket has come together and navigated the situation and I'm excited about the possibilities for the sport."
There is a view, acknowledged both within and without the organisation, that it has been playing a more or less reactive game ever since the fateful Cape Town Test, and that answers to questions about the tenures of Hockley and also the CA chair Earl Eddings are needed to help move onto a more future-focused, proactive footing.
It is in this area that Hockley faces his most pointed queries, from the CA Board and those outside its closed meetings, as to whether a seasoned manager of big and successful events has the broader vision and proactive drive necessary to do the sort of job that James Sutherland managed over 18 years, before Roberts held the role for around 18 months.
Numerous partners in the game, whether the states, corporate, broadcasting or elsewhere, are growing impatient for greater direction from CA. Overseas nations are wearying of the backlog of postponed tours that have conspired to see the Australian Test team play just 10 matches over a period of two years, with none overseas since the September 2019 conclusion of the previous Ashes series. Numerous staff, too, are pondering whether to continue on under fresh leadership or look for somewhere else.
"I think we've made great strides in [being a] sport for women and girls, we need to absolutely maintain that momentum..."
Nick Hockley
So, what does Hockley see as cricket's biggest strategic priorities? Asked about where he saw them, he danced inevitably between growth imperatives and the complications of the Covid-19 pandemic that have occupied more or less Hockley's every waking moment since June last year.
"We've been able to work very much more closely together. I think if we can display the agility we have... Covid has brought significant financial pressures," he said. "The cost of putting on cricket, you only have to think about the multiple touring teams coming in this year and the likelihood they will have to quarantine. So we are in a constrained fiscal environment, but I think what we've shown is that we can work really efficiently.
"We're blessed to have fantastic partners, so for me a strategic priority is continuing to work as a united sport and ultimately to put the best players on the park in all formats. I think we've made great strides in [being a] sport for women and girls, we need to absolutely maintain that momentum, and deliver up great cricket that our fans want to see.
"I also think we've got a very big role to play internationally, and certainly supporting world cricket and making sure we deliver on our overseas touring commitments and whether it's development of international property, whether it's new ways to deliver great experiences to our fans that we're working more broadly with world cricket to share things like high performance development, sharing our knowledge and helping strengthen world cricket."
Whether or not this pitch is viewed as substantial enough for CA will be known soon. The CEO question will also answer questions about how Australian cricket's next big industrial negotiation will play out. Hockley has established decent enough rapport with the new Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Todd Greenberg, but it was difficult not to notice, when they spoke jointly about the return home of the Australian IPL party, the former NRL chief's greater comfort with a spotlight that Hockley still occasionally blinks at.
"I'd like to think we've established a great initial relationship, Hockley said. "Certainly some of the challenges we've had to work very closely together we've worked closely on supporting our IPL contingent.
"We've been including the ACA in our broader CEOs meetings, and having Todd's perspective, coming from a different sport but equally he's very much a cricket person, has been extremely valuable. Our respective management teams met last week, and between the teams there's a huge amount of talent and we are all vested in the ongoing growth and health of the sport."
Hockley has been a sterling interim. He, and the rest of Australian cricket, deserve an imminent conclusion to what must be considered the most interminable job interview in CA's history; certainly a longer wait for the resolution than Grant's perpetual best man, Charles, in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig