Kevin Roberts: Cricket Australia committed to better understanding mental health

The Cricket Australia CEO says his team hopes to create an environment where players feel comfortable to talk about mental health problems.

Kevin Roberts: "The well-being of our people is of paramount importance to Cricket Australia." Photo: Getty Images

For cricket’s sake, it was important that Australia bounced back from the ignominy of the ball-tampering scandal that blighted it in 2018. So when the Australian men’s team left for the English shores in May this year, not only were a World title and an Ashes series at stake, but also the reputation of a side that ruled world cricket for nearly two decades.

Four months later, after a spirited run to the World Cup semis and retaining the Ashes in England for the first time in 18 years, Australia has showed signs of returning to its best form. Meanwhile, the women’s team too retained the Ashes by drawing the four-day Test match against England at Taunton.

Sportstar caught up with Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts, who looks back at some of his favourite moments of the past cricketing year while weighing in on the challenges ahead.

Q. 2019 has been largely successful for Australia. A run to the World Cup semis followed by a sensational Ashes campaign, both for the men's and women's teams. How would you describe the year?

A. Both national teams showcased some amazing cricket over the past 12 months. We’ve seen our women’s team dominate the international cricketing landscape over the last three years — winning the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and producing a dominant performance in the Ashes over the Australian winter which cemented the team’s status as the best in the world in all formats. But it hasn’t been their performance alone which has captured the nation. They have led by example through their attitude and culture under the leadership of captain, Meg Lanning, and coach, Matthew Mott.

Our Aussie men are also doing us proud with their semifinal berth in the World Cup, retaining of the Ashes and an unbeaten run against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the early part of the Australian summer. We look forward to continued success from all our national teams over the coming years, with our mutual goals to win and to compete with respect.

Cricket Australia has largely been a very stable administrative unit. What’s the secret?

Cricket in Australia is fortunate to have strong, capable and engaged people at all levels and a clear purpose and strategy that we are all working toward. We continue to develop new frameworks and ways of working to ensure cricket unites and inspires Australians and is a true sport for all.

George Bailey’s appointment as a selector has been met with universal approval. As a current player who has played with and against almost every player involved in the national teams, it’s a novel call. What was the thinking behind it?

We’re thrilled to have George join the National Selection Panel. He is an outstanding leader and one of the most respected figures in international cricket. We think George’s international and domestic playing career will have a significant impact on the Australian men’s team. His deep knowledge of T20 cricket will be invaluable as we head into a home T20 World Cup in late 2020 and beyond.

Mental health issues have once again come to the fore. How does CA plan on handling it, given the players these days spend so much time on the road?

The well-being of our people is of paramount importance to Cricket Australia. Over the last few months I’ve been proud of the players who have felt comfortable to speak about their mental health honestly and openly. We are absolutely committed to better understanding mental health and supporting those who are dealing with issues. Ultimately, we want to create an environment across Australian cricket where players feel safe to talk about these issues and provide support they need in the difficult times. Importantly we are working on education, resourcing and research to better understand how we do this.

Will Pucovski (right) and Glenn Maxwell watch their Victoria team-mates during a domestic one-day match in Melbourne. The two took a break from cricket citing mental health. Photo: Getty Images

 

As the CEO of Cricket Australia, which places as much emphasis on red-ball cricket as on white-ball, what's your assessment of international broadcasting for five-day cricket? Do you feel international broadcasters value some of the T20 competitions more than Tests today?

We know that millions of Australians tune into and attend Test match cricket no matter where it is played. Test match cricket is the pinnacle of achievement for men and women’s cricket and we see no change in the appetite from fans to their engagement in this form of the game.

Read | Roberts hopes to include day-night Test against India in itinerary

Would CA be interested in playing, say five-Test series against India, as England now does?

The most recent Ashes was one of the most competitive and gripping in recent history. We’re certainly pleased with the current interest and exposure of Test match cricket around the globe and look forward to the future evolution of the game through the ICC World Test Championship.

There are reports that India's tour of Australia in 2021 could become the first series ever to feature more than one day-night Test. Any development on that front?

Cricket Australia is still in the process of developing the summer of cricket schedule for 2020/21. We look forward to announcing the 2020/21 schedule next year.