Cricket facing competition for people's time, says Cricket Australia CEO

Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts says fans, stakeholders and associations will receive maximum support and hopes the India vs Australia cricket series will be exciting and competitive.

If the recent T20 international series against India was anything to go by, it’s going to be an exciting and competitive summer of cricket, says Kevin Roberts, Cricket Australia's CEO.   -  Getty Images

Kevin Roberts, the man who led Cricket Australia's negotiations in a bitter pay dispute with players, succeeded James Sutherland as the organisation's CEO in October. 

Roberts joined the CA board as an independent director in 2012 and was Sutherland's deputy for a number of years before the latter stepped down from his role as chief executive in the aftermath of the 'ball-tampering' scandal in South Africa earlier this year.

Now, as Australia gears for a four-Test series against India, Roberts, in an interview to Sportstar, talks about the challenge of manoeuvring Australian cricket through choppy waters, the team's 'strategy and vision' ahead of 2019 World Cup, and a wide range of topics.   

Excerpts:

You have taken charge during a tumultuous period. Does the CA management have a blueprint for where it wishes to see Australian cricket six months from now?

We have a clear strategy and vision to unite and inspire communities through cricket. We will work closely with the cricket community to provide the best experiences to everyone who watches, plays or participates in the game. We will work hard to make Australians proud of cricket in this country, and abroad.

Read: Sachin Tendulkar on India vs Australia

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

Cricket is facing increased competition, not just from the sports industry but for people’s time. We must continue to offer reasons for people to choose to watch and participate in our great sport knowing that everyone is increasingly challenged for time. There is work to be done on rebuilding relationships across the cricket ecosystem, whether the local club as the heart and soul of its community, the players through development and coaching, or the community of fans attending the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020. 

There has been a noticeable slump in the performance of the Australian men's team. Heading into a World Cup year, have you discussed a strategy with the leadership group?

The leadership team is committed to winning back the public trust and making Australia proud. There is work to be done to deepen our relationships right across Australian cricket — with our employees, State and Territory Associations, the ACA (Australian Cricketers' Association), our partners and the fans. Our women’s team collected its fourth ICC Women's World T20 title in Antigua and is number one across all formats.

Our men are developing and working hard to play good, competitive cricket. We’ve had some wins and some losses. The team is determined to keep improving and winning well, or losing well, as may happen.

Also read: Greg Chappell expects Australia to be competitive on home turf

We will continue to engage fans through their experiences of the game, regardless whether they are lifelong fans of Test cricket, new fans of the T20 format or whether they love all formats of the game as many of us do. We will continue to support State and Territory Associations in their efforts to keep growing the game at a community level. 

Given all the recent events, how significant is the series against India for the team, the management as well as for the Australian fans?

Every game we play, whether it’s overseas or in Australia, is incredibly important for our fans, players, volunteers, coaching staff as well as Australian cricket employees. If the recent T20 international series against India was anything to go by, it’s going to be an exciting and competitive summer of cricket.

Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts (left) with his predecessor James Sutherland.   -  Getty Images

Many former cricketers have expressed unhappiness over the diminishing importance of Sheffield Shield cricket. Your thoughts?

It’s no secret that we have some work to do in this space. Having played cricket for New South Wales and lot of premier cricket in a time when the competition was strong, and the interest high, I know firsthand what a healthy domestic league can do for Australian Cricket. I’m passionate about Grade cricket and the role that it plays in Australia and the premier cricket community. We are committed to investing into this space to improve the pathways and longevity of players in premier cricket and the Sheffield Shield.

Also read: India are smelling blood, says Justin Langer

You succeeded James Sutherland, who oversaw Cricket Australia for nearly two decades. Was the prospect of being his successor daunting?

It is a privilege and a tremendous responsibility to lead and serve the Australian cricket community as CEO of Cricket Australia, including the important role that Australia plays as a leader of international cricket alongside other member nations of the International Cricket Council.

Our success is made possible by the hard work of CA employees, players, coaches and State and Territory Cricket Associations, along with the contribution of volunteers who are the lifeblood of our game in the community.

I am inspired by the many people who give so much to cricket in paid and unpaid roles and I am passionate about helping them achieve ongoing success.