Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland has announced that he will step down, but has denied that the recent ball tampering scandal involving the Australian national team was behind his decision to resign.
Sutherland, who first joined Australian cricket's governing body in 1998, said the time is right for him to end his 17-year tenure in the role. The 52-year-old will now serve a 12-month notice period until his replacement is found.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Sutherland said that resigning had been on his mind for some time, although he had previously indicated after the ball tampering saga that he wanted to stay on in the position.
"I feel very comfortable that this is the right time for me and a good time for the game," he said. "It is something that I have been thinking about for a long time. We have had some big, big things to deal with over the course of the last 12 months."
Sutherland’s resignation comes after that of national team coach Darren Lehman, who stepped down in March in the wake of the ball tampering scandal but recently landed a new role with CA’s national performance programme.
The ball tampering incident took place during the third day of the third Test of Australia’s recent series in South Africa. Television cameras caught opening batsman Cameron Bancroft holding sandpaper while rubbing the ball in a move designed to help bowlers generate reverse swing. The 25-year-old proceeded to hide the sandpaper in his pocket, and then inside his trousers.
CA handed Bancroft a nine-month ban for his role in trying to gain an unfair advantage, while captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were given one-year suspensions.
Some observers claimed that Sutherland should shoulder some of the blame for the Australian cricket team’s behaviour, but he remains adamant that the fall-out from the scandal had no influence on his decision to step down.
“It hasn’t had a bearing on my decision,” he said. “David [Peever] and I have been talking about this for two years. It’s something I’ve been talking about for a long time.”
During his tenure, Sutherland oversaw the introduction of day-night Test matches and the men’s and women’s Big Bash League, Australia’s popular Twenty20 domestic competition. He also recently brokered a lucrative AUD$1.182 billion (US$913.4 million) broadcast rights agreement and – after a lengthy standoff with players – a new pay deal.
“My successor will have a strong and stable platform from which to lead our national strategy and to deliver on our bold aspirations to grow cricket as Australia’s favourite sport and a sport for all Australians,” Sutherland added.