The McCosker committee has also listed 42 recommendations. Of these, recommendations 1 to 10 are for Australian cricket in general, 11 to 17 for the men’s national team, and 18 to 41 for CA. Some recommendations are worth reproducing…..
Once Cricket Australia banned Steven Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft in the aftermath of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before a call would come for complete revamp of the system that gave rise to it in the first place.
A panel, chaired by Rick McCosker and including Tim Paine, Justin Langer, Rachel Haynes, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Pat Cummins, and Peter Collins, was set up. The panel submitted a 145-page review to the Ethics Centre, citing CA’s drawbacks.
Without making any effort to mince words, the McCosker Committee stated: “Australian cricket has lost its balance … and has stumbled badly. The reputation of the game of cricket, as played by men, has been tainted,” while mentioning that “women’s cricket remains unaffected.”
They have also listed 42 recommendations. Of these, recommendations 1 to 10 are for Australian cricket in general, 11 to 17 for the men’s national team, and 18 to 41 for CA. Some recommendations are worth reproducing.
Recommendation 3: Require CA to consider establishing a mechanism for consulting with cricket’s fan base – with the intention of developing a mechanism by which the views of fans can inform the deliberations of the Australian Cricket Council.
This is a wonderful recommendation. While purists may harp on about the glory and tradition and honour of the ‘noble’ sport, the fact remains that the cricketers are employees of CA while the fans form the clientele. Feeling the pulse of the fans is a splendid idea, not only when it comes to assessing the spirit in which the sport is played, but also in other respect.
CA has accepted the recommendation.
Recommendation 5: Honours – such as the Alan Border Medal – take into account a player’s character and behaviour as well as their performance in batting and bowling (akin to the Brownlow Medal for best and fairest in AFL). In line with this, players who have been penalised for poor on-field behaviour should not be eligible as recipients for major awards. Additionally, the status of the Richie Benaud Spirit of Cricket Awards should be elevated.
This is likely to receive flak from some corners. The line between hard gamesmanship and unsporting behaviour is often blurry. It is unfair to make penalised cricketers ineligible for major awards. While the sporting spirit is necessary, more so after the Cape Town incident, it may also be argued that this is probably carrying things a bit too much.
Rewarding cricketers of excellent conduct could probably have been a better solution than penalising offenders, especially one-time breachers of the code of conduct. A serial offender, of course, is another thing.
However, that has been addressed, albeit at match level, in Recommendation 7.1: “… at the end of each match, the umpires’ formal assessment of the sportsmanship shown by each team be published along with the name of any player whose conduct the umpires deem to have been exemplary.”
CA has accepted the recommendation.
Recommendation 9. “In Test, Sheffield Shield and Grade matches, following at least one informal warning, Umpires be empowered to exclude players from the field of play, for set periods of time and with immediate effect…”
A football-like send-off has been deliberated upon in ICC several times. While a red-card equivalent (permanent ban for the rest of the match) may be far-fetched, this may be the beginning of things to come. A welcome move.
CA have responded with “This recommendation is under consideration and there are some challenges to implementation, such as CA not being responsible for, or in control of International Cricket, and the potential impact on the official status of matches in Australia … CA will consult with relevant stakeholders – including the ACA, umpires and State & Territory Cricket Associations.”
It is likely that the recommendation will be implemented at the domestic event, though, for the nod for international cricket needs to come from ICC.
Recommendation 12. “The current performance bonus (linked to match wins, series wins and world rankings) be converted into a payment, without loss to player’s current remuneration, in recognition of:
11.1 Contributions to the maintenance and development of grass-roots cricket
11.2 Positive relationships with fans, sponsors, etc.”
This is probably the single most important recommendation of all forty-one. A cricketer often loses touch with the roots once he reaches the highest level. One cannot blame him/her, for international commitments and travel time can be taxing.
This leads to growing chasms between successive levels of cricket. While these chasms are far more prominent in countries like India, their Australian counterparts can do with some motivation as well – and what better incentive can be there than financial boost?
The response read: “CA will continue to work with the ACA and players to improve performance bonus structures. CA will consider and review remuneration structures of other sports to consider best practice in remuneration policies.”
Recommendation 14. The role of vice-captain be ‘de-coupled’ from that of ‘heir apparent’ for the captaincy. The captain should be able to rely on the loyal support of the vice-captain.
Recommendation 15. Players with leadership aspirations or capacity should undertake formal leadership training – including processes to improve their capacity to display moral courage.
Between them, the two recommendations outline the guidelines to select future leaders at all levels. Defining the role of the vice-captain at this point (and not the captain) is definitely a smart move.
CA has accepted both recommendations.
Recommendation 28. CA amend its Anti-Harassment Code for Players and Player Support Personnel so that the definition of ‘harassment’ is expanded to include abusive sledging.
Recommendation 29. CA make explicit (in documentation, etc.) a general prohibition against conduct that might reasonably be perceived as bullying.
These are more or less obvious. If anything, the fact that these needed to be recommended comes as a surprise.
Recommendation 41. A player’s character is considered in making a selection.
This makes a straightforward reading. CA responded with “A player’s character is considered in making a selection,” adding “CA will review its selection policy, with a heightened emphasis on a player’s character and behaviour in line with the Players’ Pact” for good measure.
Of all recommendations, CA have opposed only Recommendation 17: “Members of Australian Test and One Day teams be excused from playing International T20 cricket to the extent necessary for them to play Sheffield Shield and Grade cricket…”
CA made their stance clear on the recommendation: “CA will continue to select the best available team for International Cricket taking into account CA’s selection policy and the Players’ Pact, including T20 Internationals.”
This made sense, more so with World T20 being an important event in ICC’s quadrennial calendar.
But all that is about recommendations. The Committee also mentioned, without making any effort to mince words: “The leadership of CA should also accept responsibility for its inadvertent (but foreseeable) failure to create and support a culture in which the will-to-win was balanced by an equal commitment to moral courage and ethical restraint.
“While good intentions might reduce culpability – they do not lessen responsibility … especially not for those who voluntarily take on the mantle of leadership.”
The scathing report continued: “With the exception of CA’s own Board and senior executives, the broad consensus amongst stakeholders is that CA does not consistently ‘live’ its values and principles. CA is perceived to say one thing and do another. The most common description of CA is as ‘arrogant’ and ‘controlling’. The core complaint is that the organisation does not respect anyone other than its own.
“Players feel that they are treated as commodities. There is a feeling amongst some State and Territory Associations that they are patronised while sponsors believe their value is defined solely in transactional terms.”
Section 03 (Key Insights) of the McCosker Review lists some shadow values and principles (“an expression of the unstated culture of an organisation”) practised by CA. Some of these are downright cringe-worthy and portray CA in terrible light:
- The big decisions are top down
- Always be winning and ignore the costs
- The men’s team get paid enough to suffer
- Collaboration is for losers
- Bow to the alpha male
- Power gets things done
- De-humanise your opponent
- Don’t stick your head up
- Cricket is the Australian national men’s team
“De-humanise your opponent” makes interesting reading. Sledging, vaguely glorified by Steve Waugh as “mental disintegration”, has always been a part of Australian cricket across decades.
To add to that, Warner, a notorious sledger himself, suddenly left the ground while batting in a grade cricket match after being sledged by Jason Hughes (brother of Phil) two days ago. Perhaps times are changing.