James Sutherland resigns as CEO of Cricket Australia

After 17 years as the head of all things cricket in Australia and 20 years with the group, James Sutherland will leave his post in 2019. The decision came after what has apparently been over two years of discussions.

How will the transition work?

Sutherland has given Cricket Australia 12 months notice, meaning he will continue in his current role for the next year. In this time, CA will conduct a thorough search for an appropriate replacement, and Sutherland ‘provide support’ for the incoming head of cricket to ensure ‘the smoothest possible handover’.

Sutherland’s tenure

James Sutherland started his career as Chief Executive of Cricket Australia overseeing one of the most successful teams in cricketing history. Recent years haven’t seen the same success in terms of on-field results, but his impact on the growth and development of cricket in the country has been immense.

In 2001, at the commencement of Sutherland’s tenure, the Australian side boasted a batting lineup with names including Michael Slater, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Mark and Steve Waugh, Damian Martyn, and Adam Gilchrist. The bowling lineup was arguably even better, with Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath heading the pace attack, and Shane Warne the sole spinner. Not a bad lineup.

Today, Australia’s test side is looking a little more thin, particularly with the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith. That does not, however, reflect poorly on Sutherland, who has implemented a number of important changes that have greatly benefitted cricket in the country.

The Big Bash League is now the second biggest Domestic T20 competition in cricket behind only the IPL, and is growing at an extremely fast rate. Kicking off in 2011, this will no doubt be remembered as one of Sutherland’s most important contributions to the game.

Likewise, he was a major force behind the introduction of day-night Test cricket in 2015, of which Australia have been a pioneer. Though that format of the game is still facing some resistance, namely from India, it appears to be a relatively widespread belief that the later time slot will become increasingly confident heading into the future, and could be a great way to rejuvenate Test cricket. On top of that, he has overseen numerous broadcast deals which have continually brought in significantly more money for cricket in the country.

Of course, fresh in everybody’s mind is the turmoil which embroiled Australian cricket on their recent tour to South Africa. With the captain and vice captain, as well as Cameron Bancroft, suspended heavily for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal, questions were raised about the culture of Australian cricket. Coach Darren Lehmann fell on his sword soon after, and though many in the media have caused an outcry not befitting of the crime, these questions were certainly justified.

For many people, Sutherland is involved in the scandal by association, and it is true that those unfortunate events will largely define the latter stages of his career. It’s worth noting, however, that it was Sutherland who brought down the extremely heavy punishments on these players, something which the ICC failed to do, resultantly creating a precedent for any similar actions in future. Rather than being lumped in with the disappointing actions of a couple of players, Sutherland’s handling of the situation should be lauded.

For almost 20 years he has been the face of cricket in Australia. Generally, those in a position such as his are far more vulnerable to criticism than they are to praise. Sutherland, however, has managed to retain the respect of the cricketing public for almost two decades, and for that he deserves recognition.