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Under-siege Gilbert falls on his sword

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DAVID GILBERT’S 11-year reign as chief executive of Cricket NSW came to an end on Monday night with his resignation to the board of directors at a specially convened meeting in Sydney.

Gilbert had been under siege since former Australian pace bowler Brett Lee told Fairfax Media of his frustration at the way cricket was being managed in the state following coach Anthony Stuart’s mid-season departure in December.

 “After 11 successful years, I am now at the point where I am ready to take on a new challenge,’’ Gilbert said in a statement last night. This is not a sudden decision. As far as recent commentary is concerned, it comes with the job – and I’ve never shied away from it. Now that the busiest period of the season has passed, I feel it is right to give the Board ample time and opportunity to search for my replacement.”

Gilbert provided an insight into the pressure he experienced in the wake of Lee’s blast during a one-on-one interview with Fairfax Media on December 30. "I’m human," he said. "If you don’t feel affected by mud-slinging you’re not being honest with yourself."

It’s understood the pressure on Gilbert had intensified significantly since then, with former players and even club delegates making it clear they weren’t convinced the state was headed in the right direction.

When the Sydney Sixers-contracted Lee was not disciplined by Cricket Australia after Gilbert reported him for bringing the game into disrepute, it was interpreted as a sign Gilbert’s leadership was under threat.


Indeed, not only did Lee escape any punishment, but he was also invited to join a CNSW sub-committee to discuss the steps necessary for the Blues to regain their former status as the world’s best first-class team.

That invitation, which came despite Gilbert’s insistence Lee deserved to be punished, meant the writing was on the wall for the chief executive, because the board had seemingly backed Lee in a dispute between a player and the management.

Lee’s comments were a catalyst for other players to air their grievances, although most chose to do so privately. However, former Test bowler Geoff Lawson wrote a scathing column on January 6 which demanded change at the CNSW headquarters.

 ‘‘The bottom line is that CNSW has been a ramshackle organisation from the top down, leading to poor performances and a loss of belief among the players," the  Fairfax Media columnist wrote. "A committee has to be appointed to sort it out.’’

Between them, Lawson and Lee articulated many of the allegations and feelings of discontent that had been levelled at Gilbert by his detractors which included:

- The annual migration of NSW players, such as Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja to other states because (in their cases) they did not believe the structure at CNSW would allow for them to fulfil their potential.

- That Stuart should never have been appointed over the more accomplished Trevor Bayliss for the roles as coach 18 months ago.

-  Morale in the office at CNSW had been low for a number of years and it was reflected by the high staff turnover.

- Gilbert’s relationship with the SCG Trust was described as non-existent

-  He lacked the appropriate communication skills for someone in his position and that unanswered communications had led to a sense of "disconnection" in some players towards the state’s cricket association.
Lee also demanded an end to the "culture of blame" and rather than make the likes of Stuart a scapegoat, he said the axe should fall on those making the decisions.

Gilbert’s tenure as chief executive did have its successes. Before the team’s poor run over the last 18 months – which brought many of the issues to a head – the Blues won silverware in the men’s and women’s competitions, the state produced numerous Test players, the game was taken to Sydney’s west to expose it to a new audience, participation levels had increased and there was a greater emphasis placed on women’s cricket.

Cricket NSW chairman Harry Harinath  paid tribute to Gilbert’s administration of the game. “David has overseen a period of tremendous growth and development for cricket throughout NSW,’’ he said  ‘‘David has done an excellent job over a long period and his departure will be a great loss. We wish him well for the future.”