The people under most pressure in Australian cricket

Pat Howard, the single point of accountability in Australian cricket for the team’s performances © Getty Images

1. Pat Howard
Remains the man under most direct pressure to justify the Australian team’s dire recent run of performances, as per the Argus review diktat to create a single point of accountability. A little more than three years ago, Howard responded to a similar point of pressure by sacking Mickey Arthur and replacing him with Darren Lehmann. This time around, Howard is out of contract in the middle of next year, and is also the man who must make monthly reports to Cricket Australia’s board of directors. He can expect, at best, a robust grilling at the next one.

James Sutherland is no longer on a fixed-term contract and the board has a possible option in Kevin Roberts © ICC

2. James Sutherland
Part of the spotlight on Sutherland relates to the fact he has been at Cricket Australia for so many years – chief executive for the last 15 years. But there are also two other significant factors, neither of which figured the last time he came under sustained pressure following the 2010-11 Ashes. First, he is no longer on a fixed-term contract, reverting to an employee salary arrangement with CA in September 2014. Secondly, there is now a man in place at CA’s Jolimont headquarters with the requisite background and skills to replace him: Kevin Roberts, the former NSW batsman, accomplished business figure and ex-board director. It is Roberts who is to lead MoU negotiations with the players over the next year, a role Sutherland himself once performed before replacing Malcolm Speed, the chairman of the board, in 2001.

Darren Lehmann hasn’t been able to provide the technical guidance that this young Australian team needs © Getty Images

3. Darren Lehmann
Lehmann had secured a long-term contract extension in August, which, on the face of it, is expected to see him through to the end of the 2019 Ashes series in England. However, as his predecessor Arthur can testify, a coach’s contract is only so binding as the ability of the governing body to pay it out if things get grim for the team. Lehmann was an excellent coach for an older team, and initially seemed the right man to help develop a new captain in Steven Smith. But he has been unable to arrest a batting slide that began in Sri Lanka, and his attacking philosophies, often light on detail, seem to require a greater technical and mental underpinning with this younger team. Should CA move on Lehmann, Justin Langer has already enjoyed a successful stand-in stint in the recent past, a tri-series in the Caribbean.

Rod Marsh will retire from his role in the middle of next year, but a few more defeats may likely expedite that process © Getty Images

4. The selectors
Some of the scrutiny of the selection panel, of which Lehmann is also a member, has been diffused by the fact that the chairman, Rod Marsh, is set to retire from his role in the middle of next year. Nevertheless, Howard has indicated that his fellow selectors, Trevor Hohns and Mark Waugh, may also finish up at that time, following a series of decisions and judgements that have grown increasingly difficult to justify. There have also been queries raised about why Marsh, a distinguished figure in Australian cricket, is being granted such a long lead-out from the job. The example of Michael Hussey’s playing retirement has been raised, whereby he asked for the chance to play out the summer’s ODIs after his Test exit, and was refused. More defeats and the process may well be expedited.

Batting coach Graeme Hick may need to answer some questions regarding the team’s collapses © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

5. The assistant coaches
In the lead-up to the announcement of his contract extension, Lehmann refreshed his support staff. Figures such as the bowling coach Craig McDermott, batting coach Michael Di Venuto, the strength and conditioning expert Damian Mednis, the physio Alex Kountouris, and the freelance fielding coach Mike Young were no longer around the team. In their places, respectively, are David Saker, Graeme Hick, Aaron Kellett, David Beakley and Greg Blewett. While it is not uncommon for assistant coaches to be turned over in this way, the question to be asked is whether the new men are adding exactly what the team requires in its present state.

Team manager Dovey’s non-cricket background may now come to hurt him © Getty Images

6. Gavin Dovey
Before the Argus review and all its changes, CA’s former head of operations Michael Brown appointed Dovey to replace the long-time team manager Steve Bernard. Chosen from outside cricket, Dovey’s high-functioning and attentive-to-detail style has managed to be sustained through the past five years, but there have been questions at various times about how far his influence has run. During the latter period of Arthur’s tenure it was clear he had taken a sizeable role in determining team culture, but Lehmann’s arrival saw his terms of reference pared back to something more logistical. Sharing a rugby background with Howard, Dovey has at times butted heads with cricket culture.

The consensus within Cricket Australia is that Steven Smith must stay as captain © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Safe in his job: Steven Smith
What was clear from the scenes in the middle of Bellerive Oval over the past four days was that Smith is a rare Australian batsman currently, with the skills required to stick around when the going is tough. What was equally clear from his anguished and impassioned post-play words is that he is in dire need of others to help him. Criticism of Smith’s tactical decisions has perhaps underplayed his status as Australia’s youngest leader since Kim Hughes. The consensus within CA is that Smith must be persevered with despite his faults, after the fashion of Allan Border.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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