Cricket Australia’s outgoing CEO James Sutherland has been praised as a “voice of reason” by cricketers after he announced his intention to resign on Wednesday.
Referencing a recent bitter pay dispute, the Australian Cricketers Association said Sutherland had “provided a voice of reason on CA’s behalf” in the finalisation of the 2017 deal.
“The ACA particularly acknowledges the support that Sutherland provided for the gender equity pay model now in place in Australian cricket,” it said in a statement.
The cricketers also sent a clear message to the sport’s organising body on the recent ball tampering scandal, saying it needed to pick a replacement who would properly address “the outcomes of the ongoing culture and governance review”.
Sutherland, who has spent 17 years as Cricket Australia’s chief executive, held a media conference on Wednesday to announce he will leave in 12 months.
The shock announcement comes two months after national coach Darren Lehmann resigned following the ball tampering-scandal, which also cost the jobs of captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner.
“The time is right for me and my family, and the time is also right for cricket,” Sutherland said.
“In the last 12 months, we’ve laid some key foundation stones for the game with the launch of a new strategy and new collective agreement.
“It’s a good time for me to hand over the reins to a new chief executive. My successor will have a strong and stable platform from which to lead our sport.”
The CA chief executive faced calls for his resignation following the scandal, which resulted in the suspension of opening batsmen David Warner and Cameron Bancroft and captain Steve Smith, plus the resignation of Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann.
Sutherland’s resignation on Wednesday was an about-face from comments he made earlier this year.
“I’m still committed to Cricket Australia and I won’t be resigning,” he told media in late March.
“I’m absolutely committed to my job. What’s happened over the last few days has only strengthened my resolve.”
A former first-class cricketer with Victoria, Sutherland was appointed in 2001 as Malcolm Speed’s successor at the then Australian Cricket Board.
“My successor will have a strong and stable platform to lead our sport and deliver on our bold aspirations for cricket to be Australia’s favourite spot and a sport for all Australians,” he said.
Sutherland was an accountant when he moved into sports administration as finance officer at the Carlton AFL club in the 1990s.
He joined CA — then known as the Australian Cricket Board — as general manager in 1998 and was named as Speed’s successor three years later.
Sutherland has been the constant presence in CA for almost two decades as the sport negotiated a series of broadcast deals, dealt with the rise of Twenty20 and the introduction of the Big Bash League, and coped with a string of other issues, including player behaviour and the tragic death of former Australian batsman Phillip Hughes.
Sutherland and CA have come under increasing scrutiny in recent times with the acrimonious negotiations over a new player pay deal and during the ball-tampering scandal.
CA chairman David Peever publicly defended Sutherland as the scandal grew, saying the chief executive had the full support of the board for his response to events.