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A Sombre And Very Surprising Admission On Dark Day For Australian Sport

Who knew cricket's chief suit had a hotline to the selectors' room?

16/11/2016 10:03 AM AEDT | Updated 16/11/2016 11:37 AM AEDT
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Not happy.

"Sport..." so the old paraphased quote goes, "...is not life and death. It's much more important than that."

That narrative is dominating Australia today. Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland called a special Hobart Test port-mortem press conference to acknowledge that our cricket team sucks, and wore a suitably grim face.

"Cricket Australia share in the disappointment and concern that cricket fans have at the performance of their team," Sutherland said.

Which makes you wonder why they didn't schedule a single round of red ball cricket ahead of this summer's first Test, but anyway.

"I came down to Hobart yesterday. My plans were to see a little bit of cricket but, unfortunately, I didn't get here in time," he added.

You had to laugh at that one. The rest of us had planned a little more telly time in front of the cricket too.

"You can't just flick a switch when you're in a rut like this. You actually need to close ranks, work very hard, be very focused, focused on process, and work together as a team. Now, clearly, there is going to be changes for the next Test match and it will be a different group of players that gather for the next Test match," Sutherland said.

This was the surprising piece of news to come out of the conference. The CA chief operates outside of the four-man national selection panel, but if he says there'll be personnel changes ahead of next week's third Test in Adelaide, then you'd have to think, OK, he knows something. There will definitely be changes. Interesting.

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Sutherland in Perth two weeks ago. The mo was a little shorter but the frown was just as long.

Sutherland then went through the key messages he rarely fails to air, including the record number of participants, record crowds last season, and the fact that the national men's team was ranked number one in both Test and One Day cricket until very recently.

He's right. The broad picture of Australian cricket is still positive. Aside from the sudden form dip in our national men's team -- and let's be honest, there are systemic and other problems underlying what was in many ways a predictable drop-off -- things are mostly in order. It's well worth mentioning that the WBBL woment's Twenty20 league, which starts next month, will have every match streamed live and free by Cricket Australia.

The main piece of good news to come out of Wednesday's press conference was that Sutherland stopped short of championing another review. It was the Argus Review in 2011 -- commissioned after an Ashes failure -- which led to the current structure of Australian cricket with its high performance manager Pat Howard, whose role is understood by few. Like head selector Rod Marsh, his contract is up next year.

Meanwhile, there's a similar vibe in Australian football this Wednesday, after the Socceroos drew 2-2 with Thailand. It was a poor performance by the Socceroos, and one which makes their World Cup qualification road a whole lot more difficult.

Football pundits and fans are now officially worried that we won't make the 2018 World Cup. Coach Ange Postecoglou had this to say after this match, in much chirpier tones than James Sutherland, but in tones which nonetheless revealed a sense of job insecurity:

"You've got to give credit to them. They were up for the game, it was obviously a big night for them and they certainly rose to the occasion. We battled hard, we started well enough, but sometimes we were our own worst enemy. We gave the ball away cheapy and allowed them to come into the game. In the second half they had us on the back foot and we couldnt really recover. Playing away from home is always tough and I can't fault the players' efforts. As I said we became a bit careless with our ball possession as soon as it became a game of end-to-end. We've had three tough away trips, we're pretty strong at home from a qualification point of view I certainly don't think there's extra pressure. But looking at this series of games, we've come out of it a couple of points short of where we wanted to be. The players know the situation and it certainly doesn't help."

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