Play­ers’ union must aid heal­ing

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUMMER OF CRICKET - IAN CHAP­PELL

IN a French Rev­o­lu­tion-style blood-let­ting frenzy, Aus­tralian cricket has lost three play­ers to sus­pen­sion, a coach has re­signed, as has the CEO, the chair­man — al­beit be­lat­edly — and two board mem­bers, one be­ing the high­pro­file Mark Tay­lor.

To cap off the chaos, two high-rank­ing ex­ec­u­tives have been sacked. Most of the blood-let­ting has oc­curred as a re­sult of the poor be­hav­iour of the men’s na­tional team.

While the up­heaval has se­ri­ously un­set­tled the men’s team, the distaff side has been mer­rily win­ning matches in prepa­ra­tion for the Women’s T20 World Cup. The ladies, ca­pa­bly led by Meg Lan­ning, have found the happy bal­ance of win­ning and en­joy­ing each other’s suc­cess with­out den­i­grat­ing the op­po­si­tion. In the process they’ve ac­cu­mu­lated fans in large num­bers.

As a re­spected for­mer player and cap­tain of Aus­tralia, Tay­lor will be the hard­est board mem­ber to re­place. I’ve of­ten crit­i­cised the board for not fea­tur­ing enough knowl­edge of how the game is played and suc­cess is achieved at the high­est level.

I cat­e­gorised the board’s spo­radic elec­tion of for­mer play­ers as win­dow dress­ing; it al­lows Cricket Aus­tralia to de­flect this ac­cu­sa­tion but in Tay­lor’s case he’s gen­uinely at­tempted to make a dif­fer­ence in a long ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­reer.

His re­cent ef­forts have mainly cen­tred around the strained re­la­tion­ship be­tween Cricket Aus­tralia and the Aus­tralian Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion. It’s crit­i­cal for the game’s heal­ing and fu­ture progress that this be­comes a part­ner­ship where, at the very least, the two bod­ies re­spect each other.

So far, Cricket Aus­tralia has made all the moves that could lead to rec­on­cil­ing the part­ner­ship. Now it’s time for the play­ers’ union to play their part and a good start would be for the pres­i­dent Greg Dyer to step down in an at­tempt to move this re­la­tion­ship onto a more friendly foot­ing.

Dyer’s op­por­tunis­tic call for the three sus­pended play­ers to be al­lowed back into the Aus­tralian fold is more like a shot across the bow in­stead of ex­tend­ing the hand of friend­ship.

Spooked by the way the pub­lic have turned against them and with the Longstaff re­port hav­ing placed a large mir­ror in front of them, the men’s team has em­barked on a cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion. The weak­ness in this oth­er­wise rea­son­able re­ac­tion is the at­tempt to start at the top in the hope it’ll work it’s way down the lev­els. There’s far more chance of long-term suc­cess if a cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion is en­gi­neered the op­po­site way round.

It should start at a young age with the par­ents and then be reaf­firmed with timely re­minders along the way from the se­nior play­ers at club, state and in­ter­na­tional level. When­ever a young player starts to get out of line he should re­ceive a sharp re­minder from the se­niors; “That’s not the way we do things around here, son. So, ei­ther you fall into line or you’ll be out the door so fast your feet won’t touch the ground.”

For any am­bi­tious and com­pet­i­tive young crick­eter this is gen­er­ally suf­fi­cient warn­ing. As a young player my con­cerns didn’t cen­tre around pun­ish­ment by the ad­min­is­tra­tors or any dis­re­spect for the rather elit­ist “Spirit of Cricket”; I was acutely aware of not an­ger­ing my fa­ther Mar­tin who had drummed into me and my two younger broth­ers that the game was to be played “hard but fair”.

Nev­er­the­less an im­me­di­ate change of be­hav­iour is re­quired at the top level of Aus­tralian cricket. This can be achieved quickly by the cap­tain and the se­nior play­ers set­ting a good ex­am­ple, rather than any pompous slo­gans propos­ing “elite hon­esty”.

Cricket Aus­tralia has ba­si­cally been dragged kick­ing and scream­ing into an era where ac­cept­able be­hav­iour is sud­denly the fo­cus of an ex­tremely bright spot­light.

Notwith­stand­ing, there are pos­i­tive signs that they now un­der­stand the need for dras­tic change. Now it’s up to the ACA to show they have also re­ceived and un­der­stood the force­ful mes­sage and are pre­pared to play their part in restor­ing the game’s in­tegrity.

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