‘I’ll be doing a lot of listening’



Re-engaging with players, appointing a new coach, and refreshing the BBL are on Henderson’s agenda

New Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson got on the front foot on his first day at the wheel, stressing the need for the CA board to re-engage with Australia’s players as well as refreshing the BBL, while also appointing a new men’s coach and a new ethics commissioner in the first few months of his tenure.
There are some wounds to heal between the CA board and the administration and the men’s team and former players, in particular, following the resignation of coach Justin Langer after the Ashes. That came hot on the heels of Tim Paine’s resignation as Australia’s Test captain prior to the start of the Ashes. CA and the board were widely criticised for the way the two issues were handled from a governance perspective.

“I think our former players, both recent former players and more distant former players, have all earned the right to an opinion about what happens in the game,” Henderson said. “And I’ll be doing a lot of listening in my first few weeks and months in the role and that’ll include talking to our past players.

“My communication style will be to be open, transparent, hopefully consistent. I work in health care. We’ve negotiated a pandemic in the last two years. That’s required a fair amount of resilience. So within the bounds of the confidentiality of boards, I hope that there’s a really open and transparent way forward.”

Henderson was appointed unanimously by the board on Thursday after an interview process with a select group of candidates. He became the fourth CA chairman in four years and the third in five months, taking over from interim chairman Richard Freudenstein, who took on the role following the resignation of Nick Hockley.

Henderson comes to the job with a glittering resume in both his profession as chief executive of Epworth HealthCare and cricket governance, where he has been WACA director and chairman and a CA director since 2018 after moving from Perth to Melbourne. He also played junior cricket for Western Australia and first grade cricket for University Cricket Club in Perth.

He pointed to better communication and stronger relationships with the current playing groups without compromising good governance.

“I think we do need to re-engage with our players,” Henderson said. “That’s been incredibly difficult. They’ve been mostly operating out of bio-secure bubbles. But, as a new chair of the board, I’d like to think that we re-engage with our cricketers, both males and females. And also my role is to also talk to cricketers at all levels, from grassroots right through to the elite players.”

“The first step in the Big Bash renewal is the strategy. The actual structure of the Big Bash and any changes like that are not on our agenda at the moment. We will look at what’s the best for cricket”

Lachlan Henderson

Henderson acknowledged that the process surrounding Langer’s resignation did need reviewing after the way it played out.

“It got messy in terms of things playing out in the media,” he said. “But the board’s role was to receive recommendations from management. We made our decision based on that. With any significant decision like that boards should reflect on that process that was involved. It is unfortunate that a bit of that played out in the media, and we will reflect on whether that should have been accelerated through the summer.”

Henderson, who was chairman of the WACA when Langer was WA and Perth Scorchers coach, confirmed he had reached out to the former coach and spoken to him via text. He hoped to have a conversation with him in the coming weeks. He also said that he was keen for an appointment of a new men’s coach, or coaches, “sooner rather than later” but acknowledged that the appointment process was in the hands of CEO Nick Hockley and Head of national teams Ben Oliver.

He revealed that CA’s board has a new cricket strategy for 2022, which involved reviewing and refreshing the BBL. The BBL has struggled through back-to-back Covid-ravaged seasons, and while TV ratings have remained strong, there are concerns around the product and the competition as a whole, particularly with a new TV rights deal to be negotiated in 2024.

“The first step in the Big Bash renewal is the strategy,” Henderson said. “The actual structure of the Big Bash and any changes like that are not on our agenda at the moment. We will look at what’s the best for cricket.

“It’s a really important product for our states and their financial capacity as well and obviously for our players, we’ll be engaging with them as well. It’s not about a complete overhaul. We have a great product. But we’re doing it to renew and refresh the BBL.

“There’ll be a consideration around the length of the season, also the duration of the season. I think they’ll all really be important considerations as we look at the Big Bash and we’ll consult widely with those involved in the product, our states, our players, our partners, our broadcast partners, and we’ll work out what’s the best way forward.”

Henderson noted that CA had a A$ 40 million bio-security cost from the last two seasons that it needs to recoup from a financial perspective, as well as a decline in participation at grass-roots levels because of Covid-10 that needed to be addressed.

His other major focus in the first few months of his tenure would be to appoint a CA ethics commissioner, which is one of the final recommendations of the 2018 Ethics Center review yet to be implemented. “I’ll be making that appointment in the weeks ahead after we review all the candidates that are available.”

One major challenge for Henderson is juggling his difficult CEO role at Epworth HealthCare with the travel demands as CA chairman. He will not be going to Pakistan with the Test team, although Hockley will be. He will attempt to travel with the men’s and women’s teams later in the year.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo


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