More change required at CA: Townsend
It is clear from the Justin Langer debacle of the past few days, and the months leading in to the Australian coach’s departure, that Cricket Australia’s inept leadership is no longer fit for purpose.
Chief executive Nick Hockley should leave immediately but will probably hang on unless the rising heat over the Langer affair makes it impossible for him to remain.
CA may well need a scapegoat and a CEO with limited runs on the board (and an English accent) will become an inevitable target.
But the CA board should also be gutted.
Former Bunnings head John Gillam, a highly capable WACA treasurer before his ascension to the highest levels of the corporate world and, before that, a bustling Subiaco-Floreat medium-pacer, is likely to become the next chairman of the board.
His first job is simple – he should tap most if not all of the nine board members who shafted Langer and tell them that they should match the coach by walking out the door.
The board comprises interim chairman Richard Freudenstein who has been conspicuously absent since he got his fingers burnt with his clumsy comments on Tim Paine’s controversial departure at the start of the summer, former NSW premier Mike Baird, former WACA chairman Lach Henderson, fellow WACA director Vanessa Guthrie, Tasmanian Paul Green, former Queensland all-rounder Greg Rowell and his State mate Michelle Tredenick, former SACA and World Cup ceo John Harnden and commentator Mel Jones.
No matter their individual views, their collective decision to make Langer an offer he could not accept – rather than having the guts to simply terminate his contract or let it run its course to its imminent conclusion – makes them unfit to continue.
It was an appalling way to treat someone brought in to save Australian cricket four years ago and one so highly thought of that he was inducted into the national hall of fame only a few days ago.
Which highly-paid staff member thought that timing was a good idea?
Where once the CA board was made up of cricket heavyweights like Don Bradman and Laurie Sawle, it is now the province of corporate operators who might claim a love and interest of the game but have rarely been immersed in it or understand what makes it tick.
That change came from the introduction of an independent board nearly a decade ago, a move that broke the power of the States and resulted in enormous money flowing into the sport but also underpinned the growth of player power to the point that it is the most significant factor in whether a coach stays or goes.
Tim Neilson, Mickey Arthur, Darren Lehmann and now Langer have all departed due to player unrest or the actions of those players.
And that decade has also brought a series of controversies unimaginable in the previous era.
Sandpaper-gate has become the most ironic of events given that the principals and beneficiaries of that ugly cheating scandal have had the most influence on the departure of the coach brought it to clean up that mess.
New captain Pat Cummins might have had a profound say in Langer’s fate yet it is notable that he had so little to say when State Smith, David Warner and Cam Bancroft concocted their scheme to prepare the ball for his benefit in Cape Town in 2018.
My observations and personal experience in dealing with CA in recent times suggest that integrity, candour and transparency have limited traction at the organisation.
Langer deserves better than he got but so does cricket itself. It is time for change at a CA that considers itself a meritocracy but is really a mediocracy.
And that should start at the very top of a very ordinary leadership group.
John Townsend has been an award-winning sports writer for more than 30 years. He was chief cricket writer at The West Australian for 23 of them, covering a record 122 Tests including four Ashes tours, and four World Cup campaigns. He has also covered more than 500 WAFL and AFL matches. He will write a weekly column for SportFM this year.