James Sutherland has announced his intention to step down as chief executive of Cricket Australia (CA), giving 12 months’ notice to the organisation to plan for a successor.
Sutherland announced the move at a media conference in Melbourne, adding his name to a growing list of changes in Australian cricket over recent months.
“It’s my intention to give the board the opportunity to run a thorough process to identify my successor and for me to provide support to the new [chief executive] with the smoothest possible handover,” he said.
“After nearly 20 years at Cricket Australia and 17 years as chief executive, the time is right for me and my family, and I think the time is also right for cricket.”
Sutherland pointed to a new strategy for Australian cricket, a new television rights deal, and the new collective agreement with the Australian Cricketers’ Association, which he said had set cricket up for the future.
“With these foundations in place, I feel that it’s a good time for me to hand over the reins to a new chief executive,” he said.
“My successor will have a strong and stable platform from which to lead our sport and to deliver on our bold aspirations for cricket to be Australia’s favourite sport and a sport for all Australians.
“My overwhelming feeling today is a sense of gratitude.”
CA chairman David Peever paid tribute to Sutherland’s performance in the role.
“James has done an incredible job and has always carried himself with integrity, humility and dignity, apart from knowing the game of cricket inside out.
“He is, without doubt, the best sporting administrator in Australia and the best in world cricket.
“James has been instrumental in driving change around the game to make it even stronger for future generations.
“When he leaves the game, he can most certainly say it’s much stronger for him having been here.”
Sutherland joined Cricket Australia in 1998
Sutherland — a former accountant — had a short first-class career as a seam bowler for Victoria, before moving into sports administration as finance officer at the Carlton AFL club.
He joined CA — then known as the Australian Cricket Board — as general manager in 1998.
In 2001, Sutherland was appointed chief executive, replacing Malcolm Speed.
He has been the constant in the organisation ever since, as CA has negotiated a series of broadcast deals, dealt with the rise of Twenty20 and the introduction of the Big Bash League, and coped with a string of other issues including player behaviour and the tragic death of former Australian batsman Phillip Hughes.
Sutherland and CA have come under increasing scrutiny, with the acrimonious negotiations over a new pay deal for players and the ball-tampering scandal that erupted on Australia’s tour of South Africa early this year.
Peever publicly defended Sutherland as the scandal grew, saying the chief executive had the full support of the board for his response to events.
The ball-tampering scandal claimed the scalps of captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft, with Smith and Warner banned for 12 months and Bancroft nine.
Coach Darren Lehmann also stepped down at the end of the series in South Africa, but Sutherland remained in place.
Last week Cricket Australia’s head of integrity, Iain Roy — who led the investigation into the ball-tampering allegations — reportedly had his position terminated.