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Australian cricket crisis stems from ‘entitlement culture’

Don Argus, the man who led a review into the Australian cricket team, believes the ball-tampering scandal stems from a sense of entitlement among players, highlighted by the bitter pay dispute last year.

cricket Updated: Mar 29, 2018 10:45 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Sydney
Australian cricket,Ball-Tampering,Steve Smith
Steve Smith and David Warner were found guilty by Cricket Australia for their role in the ball-tampering controversy and were also barred from playing in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL). (REUTERS)

The man who led a 2011 review into the Australian cricket team believes the ball-tampering crisis can be traced to last year’s pay dispute and assumption of entitlement that framed the players’ demands.

Sparked by a poor Ashes series, the review, headed by Don Argus alongside former ICC chief Malcolm Speed and greats Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor, led to an overhaul of how the Australian team was led and coached.

But Argus said it appeared standards had slipped, with players becoming driven more by money and less by the contribution they make to society.

“When you think about the pedestal we put our cricketers on, to them wealth seems to be a right, not a reward,” he told The Australian newspaper.

“In all that noise about the pay dispute, they were saying this is our right, rather than a reward for creating something of value and being a responsible citizen.

“When you have an industrial dispute like that, it takes a team of people and a fair bit of time to get over it. I see that playing out here.”

The acrimonious pay dispute rattled the sport, badly damaging relations between players and Cricket Australia.

It was sparked by the governing body attempting to scrap the revenue-sharing deal that has governed players’ salaries since their first memorandum of understanding was brokered 20 years ago.

In the end, after months of mud-slinging and with broadcasters and sponsors applying pressure, the players came out on top in a five-year agreement worth an estimated Aus$500 million (US$396 million).

David Warner, at the heart of the ball-tampering scandal that has seen him and disgraced captain Steve Smith banned for a year, was a key protagonist in the dispute.

Australian media have widely pointed to Warner as being the chief plotter in using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball during a Test in South Africa last weekend, and that Smith effectively turned a blind eye.

Argus, a former head of mining giant BHP and banking heavyweight NAB, suggested Smith was appointed captain because he was Australia’s best cricketer, rather than the most qualified leader, and that he struggled to stand up to a strong character such as Warner.

As part of the Argus review, a leadership consultant was brought in to help then newly appointed-captain Michael Clarke develop the skills he needed to head the country’s most important sporting team.

Argus said he was not sure that Smith got the same level of support.

“I can go through corporations where you had some very smart people who wouldn’t lead you across the road,” he said.

“Cricket is no different. They picked Steve because of his obvious talents with a cricket bat, but if Steve comes under a very strong individual like David Warner ... maybe he can’t handle that scene.”

Cricket Australia has announced another review into team culture in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 10:42 IST