Cicket Australia CEO James Sutherland is coming under fire from fans after announcing that he wasn’t resigning and hadn’t yet watched Steve Smith’s heartbreaking press conference.
The CA boss was slammed after telling media in Johannesburg early this morning (AEDT) he hadn’t seen the captain’s emotional statement, with some saying he was “disrespectful” for not watching, and would struggle to ride out the scandal.
“I’m still committed to Cricket Australia and I won’t be resigning,” said Sutherland. “We are eager to restore the image of Cricket Australia going forward.
“I’m absolutely committed to my job. What’s happened over the last few days has only strengthened my resolve.”
He said coach Darren Lehmann, who announced his resignation several hours earlier, had a “terrific work ethic” and “genuinely cares for and loves his players.” There would be time to find a replacement coach after the fourth Test before Australia next plays international cricket in England in June or July, he added.
Sutherland said CA and the Australian Cricketer’s Association would continue to support Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, who were “in a very sad and difficult place right now” after the ball-tampering scandal.
But Sutherland confessed he hadn’t watched Smith breaking down during a heartfelt apology to fans. “I haven’t seen Steve Smith’s press conference but I have had a lot of messages and will watch it,” he said. “I know how sad and remorseful he is. Our hearts go out to the three suspended players right now.”
Today host Karl Stefanovic believed Sutherland’s revelation warranted his dismissal. “I’ve got to say from a personal point of view how difficult it was watching Steven Smith last night and the players pour their hearts out on national television and to say how sorry they were,” Stefanovic said. “I believe it, let’s move on for the players. For James Sutherland not to have even seen it? Time to go. My thoughts, just mine.”
Fans were also unimpressed, with many calling for his resignation. “He didn’t see the press conferences today, he hadn’t spoken to Smith before his first press conference on the matter. What is James Sutherland even doing?” asked Aaron Bramford on Twitter.
“Sutherland says he hasn’t seen any of Steve Smith’s press conference yet — fair enough, more important things to do, MasterChef Australia won’t watch itself,” Sandy Thin tweeted.
But former Australian skipper Michael Clarke defended the besieged administrator. “I don’t want to see anybody else leave as well,” Clarke told Channel Nine. “Right now cricket needs as much help and experience, as much advice and guidance as possible. James Sutherland has been CEO for a long time and if he believes he is the right man to stay there — he knows he has got his work cut out.
“Cricket has taken such a large hit anybody in those leadership positions now it is such a hard role to be able to start a process to get Australian cricket back to where it belongs.”
Sutherland was criticised earlier in the week for refusing to use the word “cheating” in relation to the ball-tampering saga. “I am angry and disappointed,” he told reporters on Wednesday morning. “It’s not a good day for Australian cricket.”
But by the same evening, he conceded that, given the circumstances, the use of the word was “appropriate”.
Australia’s cricket coach Lehmann tonight announced he would be stepping down after the fourth Test in the wake of the ball-tampering saga.
A tearful Lehmann said that the heartbreaking press conferences given by Smith and Bancroft had shown him the time was right.
After being cleared of any wrongdoing in the ball tampering-scandal, the news of Lehmann’s resignation was a huge shock.
“My family and I have copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it’s taken its toll on them, as many of you sitting in this room will know, life on the road means a lot of time away,” he said. “After speaking with my family at length over the last few days, it’s the right time to step away.
“I’m ultimately responsible for the culture in the team and I’ve been thinking about my position for a while.
“Despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning, after hearing Steve and Cameron’s hurting, it’s only fair that I make this decision.
“This will allow Cricket Australia to complete a full review into the culture of the team and allow them to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public.
“This is the right thing for Australian cricket.”
A distraught Smith sobbed as he addressed the media, revealing the extent of the mental torture he is enduring. “To all of my teammates, fans of cricket all over the world and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry ... I’m sorry,” he said.
“What happened in Cape Town has already been laid out by Cricket Australia.
“Tonight, I want to make clear that as captain of the Australia cricket team I take full responsibility.
“I made a serious error of judgment and I now understand the consequences. It was a failure of leadership, of my leadership.
“I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused.
“If any good can come from this, if it can be a lesson to others then I hope I can be a force for change.”
Bancroft also fought back tears as he spoke about the saga that has consumed the world of cricket over the past week.
“Thank you very much for coming along everyone, I’ve had time to reflect on the events in Cape Town and on the punishments handed down to me by the ICC and CA,” Bancroft said.
“I want to say that I’m also very sorry.
“It’s something I’ll regret for rest of my life.”
Warner accepted responsibility for his role in the Aussie cricket team’s attempt to tamper with the ball using sandpaper during the Third Test against South Africa and apologised for his actions. But the player named as ringleader suggested the fault was not all his to carry.
“To cricket fans in Australia and all over the world: I am currently on my way back to Sydney,” Warner wrote in a message on Twitter.
“Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it.
“I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans.
“It’s a stain on the game we all love and have loved since I was a boy.
“I need to take a deep breath and spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisers. You will hear from me in a few days.”
Warner briefly spoke to reporters as he and his family touched down in Sydney. “As you can imagine, it has been a tough and emotional time for my wife and the kids,” the former vice-captain said.
“You’ll hear from me in a couple of days. At the moment my priority is to get these kids in bed.”
After making her way past reporters, a visibly upset Candice Warner placed an arm around her husband as the two walked towards the exit.
The ACA responded to the sanctions handed down to the three players, who have been suspended from national and international cricket, noting that there were “a number of glaring and clear anomalies in the process to date which causes the ACA to query the severity and proportionality of the proposed sanctions.”