Departing Sutherland has sandpaper regrets

Outgoing Cricket Australia (CA) CEO James Sutherland regrets missing the moment Cameron Bancroft attempted to alter the ball with a piece of sandpaper in a Test in Cape Town in March this year.

Sutherland, who stepped down as CA CEO on Thursday after 17 years, was watching the Newlands Test at home but said he switched off the television and gone to sleep before the ball-tampering incident.

The former CEO then also missed the ensuing press-conference when captain Steve Smith admitted that the leadership group decided to tamper with the ball but also attempted to cover up the truth.

Sutherland believes he could have mitigated the fall-out if he had intervened earlier.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Sutherland said: “At a guess it would’ve been about midnight I suppose (that he turned off the TV) but, yeah, I wish I was watching, absolutely.

“It was a serious WTF moment there. I’d like to think that my judgement and possibly influence would have meant that the media conference would have gone slightly differently.

“As we know, that was part of the penalty and the severity of the penalty was to some extent related or at least was consequential in terms of how that was handled – not telling the truth, or not telling the whole truth.”

After Sutherland and the Australia public got involved, including the country’ prime minister, and an investigation, Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Bancroft were sent home in disgrace and given hefty suspensions.

Darren Lehmann resigned as head coach after the tour and Sutherland himself decided to step down after coming sustained pressure.

The series had already been overshadowed by confrontations on and off the field and Sutherland admitted the warning signs were there before it came to a head with the ball-tampering incident.

Sutherland continued: “I was heartbroken by the events that happened and I think that in some ways I totally understand that in the heat of battle things can boil over and go awry and there can be regrettable incidents.

“Part of the extent of my disappointment around Cape Town is heightened by what happened earlier in the series, and my feeling that there were warning signals.

“There were lots of other things going on, and some disgraceful behaviour during the Port Elizabeth Test, provocation by opposition fans but also administrators from the opposition team.”

Sutherland, who has been replaced by internal candidate Kevin Roberts, won plaudits during his long reign for negotiating a lucrative new television rights deal and popularising the Big Bash League, day-night Tests and women’s cricket.