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Mike Baird unveiled as new Cricket Australia chair

Former NSW premier Mike Baird will be the new chair of Cricket Australia after the incumbent Lachlan Henderson flagged his intention to resign from the role following an impending move home to Perth.

Senior cricket sources confirmed Henderson’s decision to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald before Cricket Australia’s formal announcement on Sunday afternoon.

Cricket Australia’s directors have agreed that Baird, who joined the board in late 2020, is the best choice to take the governing body forward as its chair, and following their Adelaide meeting the chairs of state associations were sounded out to confirm they also supported his appointment.

Henderson’s acceptance of the job as chief executive of the not-for-profit health fund HBF in October means he will no longer be based in Melbourne as chief executive of Epworth Health, although he is likely to remain as a director.

Baird, by contrast, is based in Sydney as chief executive of HammondCare, a Christian charity providing health and aged care services. He served as a director of Cricket NSW from 2019 to 2020.

As a former state premier, Baird will be the highest-profile chair in Cricket Australia’s history, with recognition and relationships that can open doors for cricket’s administration. A former South Australia premier, the late John Bannon, also served on the board either side of its move to an independent structure in 2012.

During his time in state politics, Baird was asked on numerous occasions about the link between his Christian faith and his policy positions. ″⁣I am guided to do everything I possibly can to look after every single person in this state and to do it fairly and justly,” he said in 2014. “I’m not going to hide who I am and what’s important to me, but I govern for everyone.”

That switch to independence was meant to bring greater stability and strategic focus to Cricket Australia, but there has been an enormous churn of leaders since then. David Peever was compelled to resign as chair in 2018, Earl Eddings was similarly pushed in late 2021 and Richard Freudenstein served as interim for several months before Henderson’s tenure will conclude after one year.

Cricket Australia has also had three chief executives in five years: James Sutherland finished in October 2018, Kevin Roberts left in 2020 and Nick Hockley moved from interim to permanent CEO in 2021.

Baird praised Henderson for “a great contribution as chair” and welcomed his decision to stay on the board.

“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,” Baird said in a statement.

Henderson, who joined the board in 2018, has won respect for how he has chaired the organisation since the start of the year, in particular strengthening Cricket Australia’s international relationships through the successful undertaking of tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He has also calmed a previously febrile relationship between the governing body and its state association owners.

“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.”

Henderson will relinquish the role of chair at the next Cricket Australia board meeting in mid-February.

The handover is taking place at a critical time for the game, as Cricket Australia is deep in broadcast rights negotiations, collective bargaining talks with the Australian Cricketers Association and a broader question of whether some of Cricket Australia or the Big Bash League should be privatised in order to raise more capital in addition to how much is raked in by the broadcast deal.

It has also dealt with a hat-trick of issues in recent times: Tim Paine’s 2021 resignation as men’s Test captain, Justin Langer’s drawn out exit as coach, and most recently the process around David Warner’s leadership ban.

NSW chair John Knox said that Baird’s cricket links gave him a strong chance to be a consensus leader of the game’s administrators.

“Mike is an outstanding leader who has demonstrated an excellent understanding of the key issues driving the future of the game,” he said. “He has been a big supporter of cricket, from being the patron of the Manly Warringah District Cricket Club to a former board member of Cricket NSW and in his role at Cricket Australia.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with Mike, the CA board and all the states and territories through this pivotal time for our game.

“We would also like to thank Dr Lachlan Henderson for his contribution as the chair of Cricket Australia, and we are delighted that he is staying on the Cricket Australia board to help influence the future of the game.”

Taken from WAtoday 11 December 2022 Media Release.

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