Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts is bracing for "the biggest two years in the history of Australian cricket". There's the T20 World Cup later this year, for starters. "It's a lot of work for our organization and lots of work for the players, but we wouldn't change it for the world," he says.
Excerpts from the interview...
The story goes what when the ball-tampering scandal broke, you were in a train with a bag which had a CA logo on it. You turned it around so no one could see it...
Yes. Having loved the game since I could walk, and having had so many experiences in the game and formed so many friendships, it was the first time that I hadn't felt proud to be involved. Literally, it was an unconscious thing to turn the bag around and not to display the logo.
Was the public backlash that severe?
It was significant. And it was magnified based on the landscape that we're living in, in terms of social media. So there was real outrage. But to the players' credit, and to our association's credit, the public have fallen in love with the men's team again.
Before you were CEO, there was a review which revealed a 'win-at-all-cost' culture. Did that culture lead to 'SandpaperGate'?
The cultural review gave us a good opportunity to look in the mirror. The term used at that time was "winning without counting the cost". It prompted us to drive a cultural change. Our goal is still to win, but the expectation is to be humble, to compete with respect.
Tell us about your meeting with Indian cricket board (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly...
I caught up with him in Mumbai. In a short time, he has shown progressive thinking and a future focus. We had some productive conversations.
Did those conversations dwell on a separate tournament featuring the 'Big 3' of India, Australia and England?
It's not something that we've discussed specifically but I think it's a really good example of the innovative thinking coming out of the BCCI under Sourav's leadership. We welcome consideration of any relevant innovation.
Won't such an event put you in direct conflict with ICC's own plans for more global tournaments?
The schedule is very full as it is. It's a matter of working beyond the current Future Tours Programme (FTP) which is set till 2023. The term of the next cycle appears likely to be till 2031. It's important that all ICC members have a voice. Cbtf Cricket
If cricket has to expand globally, the impetus has to come from the 'Big 3' since they generate so much of the revenue. How do you reconcile that with your individual commercial aspirations?
The BCCI deserves credit in terms of how generous they are when it comes to growing the sport internationally. India tours more than anyone. They play more days of cricket than anyone. They're actively developing the game. On our part, we're all conscious of the need to help.
When it comes to broadcaster influence, is there a line which administrators have to ensure is not crossed?
Broadcasters are a really important stakeholder, the commercial side. Fans are a critical stakeholder too. The players are the stars. We don't look at just one perspective. The fourth (factor) is development of cricket at community level.
Does CA have a position on four-day Tests?
Not at this point. We're going to ask ourselves the right questions and the hard questions. Interestingly, there's been like 130 three-day Tests, 120-odd four-day Tests and there's been 100 timeless Tests. So Tests haven't always been five days. It's also interesting to see how many matches are finishing inside four days. The data is being considered. Personally, I love five-day Tests. But my role isn't to make decisions on what I love.
Why not have four-day 'pink-ball' Tests and five-day regular Tests?
It's not a binary discussion of four or five days. There needs to be a balance of head and heart. If it was purely based on the numbers, it doesn't pay respect to the game's history. The concept does raise interesting possibilities like starting Tests on a Thursday, to give fans the maximum opportunity to watch on a Saturday and Sunday.
A lot of good teams were kept out of the 50-over World Cup last year...
It's important that the T20 format stays the key driver of the game's development. The shorter the format, the closer the contest between a developing nation and a traditional powerhouse.
Would you like to see the T20 World Cup expanded?
Yes. There's a great example in terms of FIFA World Cups over the last 30-40 years, how they've been able to use those as a great way of developing the game globally. We can do something similar.
There's a lot of concern about players' health, both physical and mental aspects. Glenn Maxwell being the latest...
Mental health and well-being is a growing issue in society. Cricket and cricketers are not immune. We've got to be vigilant and supportive of the players. Everyone needs a break, needs to refresh. We have to keep an eye on workloads when it comes to the next FTP. We've got a very strong view that international cricketers should not be playing any more cricket than they already are. It's also important for players to have other interests, to pursue another aspect of life.
Does cricket need a 'climate policy' of sorts? If it's bushfires in Sydney, it's the smog in Delhi...
We've developed a hot-weather policy ourselves. We're proud to become the first cricket nation to have done that. This year we are working on evolving our environmental sensibility more broadly. When the air quality is at a hazardous level, one of the challenges is to measure the air quality at the venue instead of the nearest measuring point which might be a few kilometres away.
The best you've played with and against?
The best I've played with is Steve Waugh, because of his intensely competitive spirit and drive. He was a strong leader too. The best I've played against is Courtney Walsh. I think he took 1807 first-class wickets and I helped his career along, because without me he would only have 1806!
Do administrators need to have played cricket?
Absolutely, because they need to understand the soul of the game. Ideally, you need a background in cricket and a background in business. It's not just about the numbers.