Crisis-hit CA leaving no stone unturned to cut costs
AUSTRALIA will review its successful and time-honoured policy of sending a selector on tour as part of cricket's ruthless COVID-19 cost cutting.
While coach Justin Langer is a selector as well, it's been Australian policy for several decades to send another official sounding board overseas where possible to help pick the team.
But following their declaration of a financial crisis, Cricket Australia administrators will weigh up whether it's appropriate and possible for the second opinions of Trevor Hohns and George Bailey to come via video link.
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It's just one of any number of money-saving measures being considered.
Cricket Australia has declared everything is "on the table" for review as the organisation fights to protect other areas of the business that don't drive revenue, but are equally important - such as underage championships and community and inclusion programs.
High-performance executives Ben Oliver and former rowing champion Drew Ginn are in charge of investigating ways that 25 per cent cuts can be made in their department and it's understood the touring party that accompanies the Australian team overseas will inevitably have to be trimmed in some capacity.
Players hope the microscope run over the less-essential travel of executives and board members will be just as thorough.
Any consideration given to not sending a national selector away with the team would be based on a theory that the quality of video and statistical analysis now available could be just as easily accessed from home and communication could take place via phone and video link.
However, such a move would run the risk of dismissing the importance of the intuition of being on the ground with players and feeling the conditions.
More pressure would fall on Langer if a touring selector was removed. However, some figures in the game, including former high-performance chief Pat Howard, believed the selection process would be less complicated and inconsistent if cricket did change its ways and handed primary responsibility to the coach, like what happens in the football codes.
When Australian cricket introduced the policy in the 1990s of always sending a selector on tour, the intention was to ensure that the central themes behind picking the team were maintained when the side headed abroad.
There had been several cases prior where overseas selection groups comprising captains and vice-captains had tampered with the selectors' plans.
The entourage that accompanies the Australian cricket team might look big from the outside but most of its members are indispensable when you consider how much time the national outfits spend abroad.
The reported loss of the likes of Chris Rogers, Ryan Harris and John Davison from the Australian coaching ranks reflects the brain drain that's already started. Players are set to be forced to increasingly rely on their instincts as coaching resources thin out.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. Cricket Australia is hopeful of a spike in the calibre of international names to the Big Bash League.
Overseas stars are eyeing off the BBL as potentially the first payday following a pandemic which could wipe out the entire calendar of T20 leagues.
"The BBL and WBBL are always looking to bring world-class players into the league," BBL boss Al Dobson said.
"We are working on a number of strategies to evolve and enhance the league for BBL10 and the recruitment of world-class players is among the top priorities.
"Given the pandemic, we will obviously adhere to all government travel and health advice in terms of introducing overseas players to the league this summer.
"Assuming their involvement becomes possible, we are excited about the potential role overseas players could play in the competition."
Why Roberts is shaping up for a huge innings
Kevin Roberts' position appears safe for the next 18 months as he fights to revive Australia's cricketing finances, and his own fortunes.
Cricket Australia's chief executive has been in the firing line ever since standing down 80 per cent of his staff, but it's understood Roberts has a unique clause in his contract which should ensure he is safeguarded against any judgment on his future until a point in time when the health of the game will be much clearer.
It is believed that under the terms of Roberts' five-year CA contract, there is a trigger point at the three-year mark where both parties would need to mutually agree to continue.
That would effectively give Roberts until the eve of next year's Ashes summer to prove he is the long-term administrative captain Australia hoped he would be.
For now at least, time is on Roberts' side, but the task he faces to reunify the game cannot be underestimated following the most damaging three-weeks Cricket Australia has endured since the cultural review which accompanied his original appointment back in October 2018.
To his credit, Roberts made significant headway in repairing broken relationships during his first 18 months in the job as the reputation of the game markedly improved and in the wake of Todd Greenberg's axing as NRL chief and Raelene Castle's demise as boss of Rugby Australia, there hasn't been any evidence of Roberts having the blowtorch applied to him by the Cricket Australia board.
However, more than three weeks after standing down staff on 20 per cent pay, Roberts is still yet to convince the players association, many staff and some states that it is in as perilous financial position as CA has claimed.
Now the bridge mending mission starts all over again for Roberts.
Mass redundancies at cricket satellites South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland as well as reports of the financial strain being felt by broadcast partners Channel 7 and Fox Sports, has subsequently provided some evidence for why Cricket Australia felt it had to act as aggressively as it did as it chases a line of credit with the banks.
However, many key stakeholders remain adamant CA hit the panic button far too early and should have held their nerve for a few more months rather than painting a doomsday scenario.
The continued optimism from Sports Minister Richard Colbeck that the Indian Test summer worth $300 million will likely go ahead on one hand gets Roberts out of jail, but on the other only adds weight to the doubts of those who believe CA overreacted.
"Cricket is yet to suffer a significant negative revenue event associated with the COVID-19 pandemic; the financial position of cricket is therefore very positive relative to Australia's winter sports," the Australian Cricketers Association told its members this week.
Even those stakeholders who have accepted that the brutal CA cuts were necessary, have been highly critical of how the crisis has been managed. Roberts himself offered a mea culpa to staff for mishandling the communication of the cuts.
Roberts has internally resolved to take a permanent 25 per cent cut to his million-dollar-plus salary, reflective of his push for Cricket Australia to slash costs by 25 per cent across every aspect of the business and not ask anyone to do something he isn't prepared to do himself.
On top of the three-year clause in his contract, it's understood Roberts also has a second trigger point for mutual agreement in continuing in his partnership with CA at the four-year mark of the five-year deal.