Reputation rebuild – when cricket becomes more than a game

Insight

In the coming weeks, Australia’s cricket team and governing body will return to the spotlight, with a chance to redeem some damaged reputations.

Ever since Australian Captain Steve Smith and fielder Cameron Bancroft admitted to ball tampering in the third test against South Africa in March 2018 – which was David Warner’s idea – the international cricket fraternity has been waiting for these men to return to the pitch for Australia.

Smith and Warner will soon represent their country again at the Cricket World Cup in the United Kingdom from 30 May to 14 July.

Later in the year, they might also wear the baggie greens in front of tens of thousands of fans attending the trans-Tasman test against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 26 December.

As a cricket tragic since the late 1970s, I have more than a passing interest in how this plays out.

Of particular interest is whether Cricket Australia can explain what it has done to change its “toxic” culture, as more than one commentator has described it.

The ball tampering, and Cricket Australia’s poor management at the time have been defined as a top reputational crisis of 2018 by business leaders on both sides of the Tasman.

As one respondent to our Reputation Reality research survey noted: “The lack of strong and firm leadership from the front, and the lack of a coordinated voice, only served to make the issue even bigger than the headlines.”

Rebuilding a damaged reputation does not happen in a vacuum. It requires sustained and proactive leadership, and a clear plan of action. To date, Cricket Australia has been seen to be reacting to negative press, when what it needs to be doing is building a roadmap for recovery, and showing what it is doing.

There has been a noticeable lack of proactivity and willingness from Cricket Australia to tell the story of how it is changing its culture.

A single press release in the past year claiming ‘Green shoots in Australian Cricket’s cultural change program’ is not a roadmap or plan of action.

To rebuild their damaged reputation, Cricket Australia, and all Australian national players need to get on board with a simple strategy and live the values they claim. Show integrity, behave in the spirit of cricket, and play the way they claim to.

Only then can they let their on-field play do the talking for them.

Over the next six months, cricket fans such as myself will all be looking to see if Cricket Australia can lead the way in building a positive culture for all fans of the game. I can only hope they manage it.