Former NSW premier Mike Baird has been appointed as the new chair of Cricket Australia but the 54-year-old is stepping into a furnace as the nation’s governing body finds itself under increasing scrutiny.

It comes as Cricket Australia staff and board members continually find themselves over very public pressure and criticism  be it for current or past events. Tim Paine’s recently released autobiography was scathing of Cricket Australia’s handling of the sexting scandal that eventually led to him effectively standing down in disgrace.

Baird will take over as the organisation’s new boss from February next year, with his predecessor Lachlan Henderson stepping down after less than a year in the role. Henderson will remain on as a director, but has decided to move out of the role after taking up the chief executive’s job with HBF; which will see him based in Perth.

David Warner has levelled equally strong public criticism over his treatment following the ball-tampering scandal, while the handling by Cricket Australia of Justin Langer’s departure as coach is the saga that will never end.

Unfortunately for Henderson, and now Baird, they are facing criticism for the diabolical governing from previous regimes. Only appointed in February, Henderson has overseen several crucial developments including the recent David Warner saga.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the record-low public interest in the men’s side, resulting in paltry crowds over the past few months, or the public way Pat Cummins’ ‘ethical objections’ to the organisation’s sponsors (Alinta Energy, specifically) has played out. 

The former WACA chairman came into the job just weeks after Langer’s exit as men’s coach and has overseen Andrew McDonald’s elevation into the role something that continues to be much discussed and debated in cricket circles.

‘The new role I’ve taken in my home city Perth will make it difficult to devote the time required as chair, so I have decided this is the right time to hand over the role,’ Henderson said. ‘It’s been a great privilege to serve as chair and to help oversee some of the great work being done by the CA executive and across Australian Cricket.’

Henderson was rightly lauded after Australia completed men’s tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka in trying circumstances amid security concerns. However this home summer has, of course, been more problematic, but he celebrated the ‘great work’ done as he prepares to make the move across the Nullabor, and away from cricket headquarters in Melbourne.

So it will now be left to Baird to turn the ailing ship (it’s not sinking, yet) around from February next year. The 54-year-old Liberal was premier of NSW between 2014 and 2017, when the government pursued a number of highly controversial policies which included lockout laws, overturning the greyhound racing ban and local government amalgamations.

The former investment banker does have experience in the game, fortunately, spending a year on powerhouse state Cricket NSW’s board, before moving into a Cricket Australia director role in 2020 as the state’s nominee. 

It was one of the most devout, religious governments in recent memory at state level, and he did enjoy huge approval ratings before they plummeted and effectively ensured he needed to step down as leader. 

Baird was unanimously endorsed as the new chairman by fellow directors and state chairs in the past week, and said he was excited to get started. ‘It is an honour to take such an important role in Australian cricket at a time when so much exciting work is being done to grow our national sport and take it forward,’ he said.

‘I’m pleased to have the chance to work even more closely with CEO Nick Hockley and his team and all those working across Australian cricket.’ In a statement, current NSW chair John Knox praised Baird is ‘an outstanding leader ‘ with ‘an excellent understanding of the key issues driving the future of the game’.

He’ll need every ounce of those leadership qualities as soon as he moves into the plush Jolimont office.A new TV rights deal is on the horizon, while another pay agreement will need to be made with the increasingly powerful Australian Cricket Association, the players union headed by the wily Todd Greenberg. 

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