Sport Cricket Cricketers promise a fresh start. Head office misses the memo

Cricketers promise a fresh start. Head office misses the memo

tim paine josh hazlewood
It's fallen to Captain Tim Paine (R) and Co Vice-Captain Josh Hazlewood to mop up cricket's mess. Photo: Getty
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Tim Paine and Josh Hazelwood have had to do this before.

Once again they were being asked to dig Australian cricket out of a hole it had dug itself – something it’s become world class at in recent times.

With the long-awaited release of the players’ review and an independent organisational review landing on the same day, the two players would no doubt prefer to be fending off chin music from Dale Steyn than having to explain the hot mess Australian cricket has got itself into.

Neither Paine nor Hazelwood was implicated in the Cape Town sandpaper fiasco, but they sure as hell have been left to pick up the tab.

Cricket Australia (CA) can thank its lucky stars they’ve got them to spruik their new gospel – the players pact. They are the new, kind face of cricket, straight from central casting.

“Compete with us, smile with us, fight on with us, dream with us,” is the new mantra.

Gone is the pitbull snarl of David Warner, to be replaced by a quasi-Hillsong hymn for leather on willow.

Paine is sincere, considered and determined.

“As part of the pact, the players acknowledge how grateful and privileged we are to play cricket for our country and have one of the best jobs in the world,” he said.

“We respect the game, the spirit of cricket and all of its traditions.”

That Australia’s cricketers had to consciously re-state that it was a privilege to play for their country, rather than assuming they were simply entitled to it, tells you a lot about just how out of touch they’d become.

The report acknowledges Australian cricket had adopted a culture of “winning without counting the cost”.

Put simply, the game lost its moral compass somewhere underneath the piles of hubris and bags of cash that accompanied team success.

Startlingly, it also talks about a culture within the sport where people felt like commodities, “as if they were merely a means to an end”. Cricket had become a baggy green machine where the only thing that mattered was the scoreboard.

To be fair to the players, the relentlessness of the touring schedule, the disconnection from the communities that nurtured them, and the isolation from friends and families is a serious issue that is acknowledged.

The cabin fever it creates goes some way to explaining why disastrous decisions like those taken by Warner, Smith and Bancroft in Cape Town may have unfolded.

The report reads as a series of well-aimed bouncers at the men in suits at CA that should have them ducking for cover.

“Arrogant” and “controlling” were the words used in the report to describe how those in the game felt about their administration. CA “does not live up to its values and principles” it goes on to say.

Is it any wonder that what permeates in the boardroom manifested itself in the change rooms?

Was Cricket Australia chairman David Peever, who has over seen this culture of corrosion even a little embarrassed by the revelations in the report?

“I’m not embarrassed” he retorted.

“Today is a difficult day for us. The report is confronting. That said, we’ll use the recommendations to move on from here.”

Quite what it would take for Mr Peever to feel embarrassed about, given he has been the ring master of this particular circus, is worth considering.

Because until Cricket Australia’s leadership off the field is held accountable in the same way it is on it, then nothing really changes at all.

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