Cricket Australia’s chief executive has defended the men’s Test team, after players were called out for their values and the decision to take a knee.
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley has defended the men’s Test team, its values and its decision to take a knee against its culture war critics.
He said the team and former coach Justin Langer were moving on from past controversies.
Hockley also said Pat Cummins’ quotes were taken out of context in relation to the fossil fuel company sponsorship.
Asked on radio network SEN by host Gerard Whateley if the public still loved its team, the cricket chief said the players were “an exceptional group of young men and an exceptional group of young women representing Australia’s national sport.”
Just under 11,000 people showed up to the first Test in Perth since home town hero Justin Langer’s coaching tenure ended in acrimony.
Hockley dismissed notions there was a “protest vote” by the public over the treatment of the former coach and said the game faced many headwinds, including a Wednesday start.
“It is great to see JL out on the field before his commentary responsibilities saying hello to the players, I know they were really pleased to see him,” he told SEN.
“There was a lot of commentary last week but everyone has had an opportunity to say their piece. I think the fact the stand is named after Justin shows the position he is held in Australian cricket and Western Australian cricket so it is great to see JL in such good form.
“I haven’t spoken to him today but I am looking forward to chatting to him, by all accounts he really enjoyed his day on the mic yesterday.”
Hockley visited the Channel 7 commentary team, which Langer is a part of, before play.
The cricket boss dismissed criticism of the side taking the knee before the match with the West Indies players.
“That was very much led by the team but absolutely supported by myself and the rest of the team. It shows a great sign of respect towards this West Indies team,” he said.
Hockley did not concede that expanding the appeal of the game would send it broke as its more inarticulate critics suggest.
“Our values are very, very clear and our purpose and our vision is clear. We want to be the most inclusive sport that we possibly can, we want to bring people together, we want to bring communities together.
“You couldn’t have a better example of that in the T20 World Cup where we saw people from all different backgrounds, all different generations coming out and just having the most fantastic time. I certainly don’t subscribe to that theory.
“In these tournaments momentum is everything, we got off to a very slow start, but you have got to remember the opening match against New Zealand was sold out, if we’d had a bit of sunshine in Melbourne that would have been sold out for the England game. We live in one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and what we saw on display in the T20 World Cup was the future of Australian cricket.”
Cummins was falsely blamed for Alinta Energy’s decision to walk away from its sponsorship when the 12 month extension to the original deal ends.
“We do research on all aspects of Australian cricket, on perceptions … we do have a read on different attributes.
“Some of Pat’s comments were taken out of context. What it shows is the position of our national cricket teams, they do have influence and people listen to what they say, but I think Pat said it really well earlier in the week, they are more than just cricketers, they are people and they are very interested in societal trends and issues and they are allowed to have opinions.
“I’m really, really proud of this group and it is very interesting the extent to which our national sport gets drawn into broader debates.”
Hockley admitted Cricket Australia monitored whether the public loved its cricket side.
“It’s something that we have been thinking about and talking about a great deal,” he said.
“We have got a very clear vision and that is to make Australian cricket a sport for all and that starts with our national team.
“Through the two years of the pandemic the way the Australian men’s team in all formats conducted themselves was unbelievable, they were the first team to go offshore during the pandemic and then I think about moments that have made us proud through last summer.
“You think about when we won the Ashes and the spirit in which that was played. Moments like Scott Boland’s performance on his home ground. The leadership of the captain when they were on the plinth and he told them to put the champagne down out of respect for Usi.
“Then you observed the team in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they were walking around with an Australian top on and people came up to them on the streets and thanked them for being there.”