Giving umpires authority to send-off players for poor behaviour – including sledging – and commissioning a review of existing high performance practices are among recommendations to be considered by Cricket Australia following today's release of a wide-ranging culture review.
The 145-page report also refutes the "mistaken" view that CA had overseen a 'win at all costs' policy, but rather had fostered a philosophy to 'win without counting the cost' in line with recommendations produced by previous reviews of team performance and corporate governance conducted in 2011.
The current review, which was empanelled in the wake of the ball tampering scandal in South Africa that plunged Australian cricket into shame, contained 42 recommendations for CA and the game's other partners and stakeholders.
Of those recommendations, 34 have been identified by CA as either worthy of implementation or already contained within existing practices and protocols that can be re-examined in order to incorporate suggestions put forward by the report's authors, the Sydney-based Ethics Centre.
Seven recommendations – including the proposal for umpires to be granted send-off powers and the review of the high-performance operations – will undergo further consideration by CA, while only one was rejected out-of-hand as inappropriate.
That suggestion was for players in the Test and ODI teams to be "excused" from T20 International cricket to grant them greater availability for Sheffield Shield and Premier cricket, a proposal that CA refuted because it effectively demeaned the importance of the 20-over format.
The process also included a concurrent player review led by ex-Test opener Rick McCosker and Director of the Centre for Ethical Leadership, Peter Collins, with support from current and former players George Bailey, Pat Cummins, Rachael Haynes, Tim Paine, Justin Langer and Shane Watson.
That review resulted in the drafting of a "Players' Pact" which was released today by Paine and Hazlewood.
Under the send-off proposal, umpires in Test, Sheffield Shield and Premier matches would be granted authority to exclude players from the field of play (after one informal warning) for a set period as penalty for continuous abusive sledging or conduct inconsistent with the Spirit of Cricket principles.
The exclusion power would also apply to deliberate breaches of the game's laws, which would not require issuing of a prior warning, although CA acknowledges that any such move could affect the first-class status of matches.
In their response, CA also notes they have no jurisdiction at international level where the game is administered by the ICC, but they will consider a 'send-off' proposal which has been discussed at other levels, including the MCC's influential World Cricket Committee, in recent years.
CA's high-performance program, which is headquartered in Brisbane but replicated at state and association level, should be examined to ensure it develops players with appropriate understanding of ethics, responsibility and personal discretion as well as elite cricket skills, the report says.
In response, CA indicated it will consider changes to the program when its future strategy is discussed and will seek input from the players' union when that discussion takes place.
Among more than 450 respondents to the Ethics Centre survey that was sent to 814 people in May and June this year were CA executives and employees, current and former players, State and Territory associations staff, and representatives from sponsor and media organisations.
While the review process sought honest opinions and feedback, sections of the report deemed by CA's external legal advice to be potentially defamatory were redacted in the final document, as was foreshadowed when its terms of reference were announced last April.
Around two per cent of the wording in the total document – which carries no legal privilege – has been redacted.
Other items that CA has agreed to consider, in response to the ball tampering scandal that led to suspensions imposed upon Test captain Steve Smith and his vice-captain David Warner (12 months) as well as opener Cameron Bancroft (nine months), are:
• Performance bonuses that could total more than $8 million per annum and were earmarked for players under the current MOU be redirected to benefit grassroots programs, and/or strengthen relationships with fans and sponsors (while ensuring no loss of players' income)
• Pending availability, international men's players take part in at least two Sheffield Shield games and one Premier Cricket appearance each summer, to help reduce the disconnect between elite and grassroots-level cricket which the review found contributed to the creation of a 'gilded bubble' within which Australia's men's team exists
• Minutes from Cricket Australia's board meetings (except for items of commercial or other confidential nature) be made available for public scrutiny, in line with practices reportedly adopted by the Board for Control of Cricket in India
• Umpires at international, domestic and club level to rate the sportsmanship of all players at game's end, with those individuals found to show exemplary on-field behaviour publicly acknowledged
• In addition to a review of the high-performance structure, ensure that no employee working within CA's Team Performance Unit is involved in future industrial negotiations with players
That final recommendation challenges recent commentary suggesting the at-times heated debate between CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association during last year's Memorandum of Understanding process might have been avoided if Executive General Manager Team Performance, Pat Howard, took a more central role.
The poor state of the current relationship between CA and the players' union, in the wake of the MOU debate, was cited numerous times in the review which called for the establishment of a process through which the two parties urgently meet to try and heal that divide.
It is one of the 34 recommendations to which CA has indicated it approves and/or is already undertaking, a list that also includes:
• Plans for players awards such as the Allan Border and Belinda Clark Medals to take into account individuals' on-field disciplinary record, noting that recent Border Medallists Smith and Warner also carried the highest number of behavioural sanctions among Australia players
• The role of men's team vice-captain to be "de-coupled" from the captaincy to ensure "loyal support" for the on-field leader from an appointed deputy
• National selectors be appointed in consultation with team coach and captain, with the EGM Team Performance included as an "ad-hoc" adviser and the selection process to take into account players' character as well as their on-field abilities
• CA's executive leadership accepting its share of responsibility for circumstances that led to the Cape Town incident, "not as a matter of direct, personal culpability but as a demonstration of responsible leadership and accountability"
• Improvement in CA's management of players as they join or exit elite-level teams, to show more compassion and respect as well as provide greater training and awareness to help players and staff negotiate potential ethical dilemmas
• CA's high-performance program to ensure it focuses on development of players' physical, mental and emotional attributes, in line with an ethos of playing 'hard but fair'
• CA's board members be made answerable to the Code of Conduct that applies to the organisation's employees (including players)
• Amendments be made to CA's anti-harassment code for players and support staff so that the definition of 'harassment' is broadened to include abusive sledging, and to explicitly document prohibition of conduct perceived as bullying
Concerns about the integrity of pitches followed claims in the review that senior administrators in Australia had sought to influence preparation of surfaces to ensure they were more batter-friendly and conducive to high scores, thereby ensuring matches did not finish prematurely.
"Indeed, we have received direct and specific evidence of at least one senior CA official issuing just such a directive," the report says.
"We have (also) been told of groundsmen (who) have been required to prepare practice pitches – spending time and effort only to see an elite bowler send down only seven deliveries before reaching the mandated 'quota' – and therefore stopping.
"This kind of behaviour speaks of gross disrespect to those who are not natives of the 'gilded bubble'."
The review, entitled 'Australian Cricket – A Matter of Balance', noted that Australian cricket underwent a significant directional change following the Argus Report (into team performance) and Crawford/Carter Report (governance) that were commissioned in 2011 to address the national men's team's poor performances.
They followed Australia first defeat to England in a home Ashes series for 25 years.
Both those reports identified a clear shift in focus that enshrined winning to generate greater financial resources and underpin ongoing on-field success, as well as to buttress the business of Australian cricket that was further streamlined by a re-organisation of CA's board structure.
Among the benchmarks identified to quantify that success was to position Australia's men's team as leaders in all three international formats – Test, ODI and T20.
"CA's effective implementation of the Argus Review's recommendations and the Crawford/Carter governance reforms is recognised as having contributed to the overall success of cricket in Australia," the report says.
"However, the means employed in order to achieve this success have also produced inadvertent but foreseeable negative consequences.
"A significantly large number of respondents (to the Ethics Centre survey) believe that cricket's success is a by-product of a culture based on an unstated, but extant, approach of 'winning at all costs'.
"While the criticism is understandable and is supported by some reliable evidence, on this point we believe CA's critics are mistaken.
"In our opinion, the problem is a different one. As noted above, CA has been faithfully applying the lessons and recommendations of the 2011 Argus Review – established to address an earlier period of poor performance by Australia's national men's team.
"In our opinion, CA's fault is not that it established a culture of 'win at all costs'.
"Rather, it made the fateful mistake of enacting a program that would lead to 'winning without counting the costs'.
"It is this approach that has led, inadvertently, to the situation in which cricket finds itself today – for good and for ill."
The report has been presented to the CA Board and to Chairs and CEOs of state and territory associations, and will be available for public viewing on the Cricket Australia website.
In releasing both reviews today, CA Chairman David Peever described the ball-tampering episode as "extremely regrettable" and one which caused "great distress across our country" with the issues raised in its wake being "difficult and confronting".
"While at times difficult to read and in some instances, difficult to agree with what has been implied – CA respects the findings of the review and what needs to be done to restore faith and prompt change," Peever said.
"The review includes various assessments that inform 42 recommendations, and CA is already well advanced in some areas with more than half of the recommendations in development or already implemented before we commissioned the review.
"Having considered the recommendations, CA is committing to enacting and exploring further the recommendations and actioning where appropriate.
"It's important to note the Argus Report of 2011 into high-performance has been diligently applied, however the opportunity for us all today is to ensure a greater focus on the game's ethos and the spirit of cricket.
"We can't change the past, but we can mould the future of cricket in this country and ensure cricket remains Australia's favourite sport, and a sport for all Australians."