Cricket Australia (CA) on Wednesday named insider Kevin Roberts — who spearheaded an ill-fated attempt to slash players’ pay last year — to lead the troubled organisation in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.
Roberts was appointed chief executive officer and on October 25 will formally replace James Sutherland, who announced in June he was stepping down after 17 years at the helm.
Roberts takes over with CA still under fire over the cheating scandal and divisions between players and administrators still raw from the pay dispute.
“The game and Cricket Australia have faced some difficult times recently, but we will bounce back,” the 46-year-old said.
Sutherland won plaudits during his long tenure for negotiating a lucrative new television rights deal and popularising the Big Bash League, day-night Tests and women’s cricket.
But he faced a career-ending crisis in March when former captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft attempted to alter the ball in the third Test in South Africa.
They were all sent home in disgrace and handed lengthy bans, with then-coach Darren Lehmann resigning and Sutherland eventually choosing to walk after coming under sustained pressure.
His replacement Roberts is a former opening batsman for New South Wales who moved into business when his cricketing career failed to take off.
He worked for a range of sporting companies including adidas, 2XU and Canterbury before joining Cricket Australia in 2012, first as a board director, then as part of the executive management team.
Roberts was lead negotiator for Cricket Australia in last year’s pay dispute, when the organisation was accused of using hardball negotiating tactics in a bid to cap its remuneration costs.
– Pay dispute –
The brinksmanship saw top players left off contract for a month and resulted in the cancellation of an Australia A tour to South Africa before Cricket Australia eventually backed down.
The dispute cemented a view within the game that Roberts is the favoured protege of Cricket Australia chairman David Peever, a polarising figure with a reputation for union busting in his former life as a mining executive.
The promotion of an internal candidate to replace Sutherland will also raise questions about Cricket Australia’s commitment to changing the organisation’s culture in the wake of the ball-tampering affair.
The cheating scandal rocked Australian cricket to its core, undermining the long-held notion that its players were “tough but fair”.
Critics blamed a win-at-all-costs mentality that they said developed under Sutherland and his management team, including Roberts.
Cricket Australia denied the charge but set up two separate inquiries to examine how the scandal occurred, one looking at player behaviour and the other examining the team’s culture.
Neither report has yet been released but Cricket Australia has chosen to appoint one of its own to the top job.
Peever said the chief executive’s role was so complex that it made sense to promote from within.
“The board concluded that an internal candidate with first-hand experience driving strategic transformation and engagement at CA would be best placed to help ensure continued success for Australian cricket,” he said.