Ron Kalifa, the man widely tipped to become the next chair of the ECB, has withdrawn from the race, to deepen the leadership crisis at the top of English cricket.
The ECB has been without a permanent chair since October, when Ian Watmore quit the role in the wake of England’s withdrawal from their planned tour of Pakistan, and after appearing to lose the confidence of several counties following a meeting on the domestic structure.
Barry O’Brien, Watmore’s former deputy, initially took over in an interim capacity, but stood down at last month’s board meeting, citing ill-health, with Martin Darlow, another non-executive director, stepping up as the new stand-in.
But the board’s hopes that Kalifa could fill the power vacuum on a permanent basis have reportedly been dashed with his withdrawal from the relaunched nominations process – a process that he himself had been heading up until last month when it became clear that, rather than any of his shortlisted contenders, Kalifa himself was the best qualified candidate to take over the top role.
With Tom Harrison, the ECB’s incumbent CEO, keen to move on after seven years in his role, Kalifa’s nomination could have paved the way for Andrew Strauss, the former England captain and recent interim director of men’s cricket, to take over that key position.
However, Kalifa was reported by The Times to have had a change of heart, potentially triggered by suggestions among the first-class counties that his nomination would have amounted to a “stitch-up” given his initial role leading the nominations committee, and been prone to intense scrutiny, not least from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, to which the board is obliged to report on a quarterly basis in the wake of English cricket’s racism crisis.
Brenda Trenowdan – another non-executive director – has been charged with leading the renewed nominations committee, but given the formal nature of the process, it is now extremely unlikely that the board will be able to announce a new chair in time for its Annual General Meeting later this month.
There are more promising developments in the hunt for a new head coach for England’s Test team, however, with the Evening Standard reporting that the interview process is underway, with just over three weeks until the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2.
With a preference for splitting the coaching role into red- and white-ball cricket, Rob Key, the newly appointed men’s director, stated at his own unveiling last week that he was “optimistic” that a Test appointment could be made before the New Zealand series gets underway. Simon Katich and Gary Kirsten are understood to be the frontrunners for that job, with Graham Ford and Jason Gillespie also in consideration.