Earlier this month saw the release of the hotly anticipated review into Australian cricket. It was incredibly detailed and wide-reaching, not just examining on-field performance but governance and the culture around the sport at every level.
As suspected, it was not very complimentary, delivering a stinging critique of players and officials alike. A wide range of stakeholders were surveyed and shared their thoughts, labelling Cricket Australia as “arrogant” and “controlling”, commenting that the national team had condoned forms of cheating as “playing hard to win”, and that the organisation had allowed bullying under the umbrella of “tough negotiations”.
It was this culture that was seen as creating an environment that had made the recent ball tampering scandal possible. It was almost an inevitable result of a mindset that prioritised results above the game. It gave players a sense of disconnect from the low regard much of the Australian public has for the pattern of player behaviour we have seen over the past few decades.
After the contentious Sydney Test against India in 2008, players seemed puzzled by the level and intensity of criticism levelled against them by the media, claiming that they were playing the game hard but fair and that was what Aussie supporters wanted to see. Numerous controversies around sledging and other behaviour since showed that the lesson had been ignored, culminating in what may come to be seen as a turning point.
In the days and weeks after the ball tampering incident, you could see a look of realisation on players’ faces as they seemed to become aware of the true significance of their actions, and the damage it had done in the public eye to the game and to the team’s legacy. It supports the review’s contention that the money and fame elite cricketers receive had seen them become insulated from public opinion and lose sight of the spirit of the game.
Officials were not spared and received their share of the blame for encouraging this behaviour. They were seen as trying to run cricket as a business in a way that forgot what was truly important. In the name of profit and sustainability, figures and statistics became more important than people, and results justified any means.
Anyone who has been involved in running a sporting club or organisation, or is part of a church or community group, has probably seen what happens when we lose sight of what our mission actually is. Cricket Australia seems to have come close to forgetting that they exist to promote the game and serve the spectators who make it possible.
Even in the most well-meaning organisations there are times when leaders seem to forget their mission is to remain true to their original values. This can lead to putting more importance in attracting the “right kind of people”, or on numbers, or see them become insulated from the needs of their followers—feeling as if they were above criticism. Regardless of the situation, it shows the importance of always remembering our purpose and why we do what we do.