England news May 11, 2016

'Dropping Edwards was hardest decision of my life' - Connor

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Connor praises 'selfless decision' from Edwards

Clare Connor has described the decision to drop her old friend Charlotte Edwards as "the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my working life".

Connor, Head of Women's Cricket at the ECB, played for England U19s with Edwards from the age of 15 - Edwards was just 12 - before they went on to represent the senior team together.

But, with recent results disappointing, and the new head coach of the women's team, Mark Robinson, indicating that he wanted a new direction, it was Connor's duty to bring down the curtain on a remarkable 20-year international career.

"We go back a long way," Connor said. "We are close and she is very special to me and to the game, so it was immensely difficult.

"It was instigated by Mark Robinson. He felt a fresh vision was what the team needed in terms of leadership. She has captained the team for ten years and environments do need to be refreshed. You sometimes need a new voice, almost a disturbance to the dynamics to kick-start a different style of play or culture.

"Lottie could see the team is the most important thing."

Connor admitted there had been some concern from the ECB management about recent results, but insisted that the introduction of the Super League and the advent of the professional era will bring improvement.

"I was at the ECB AGM yesterday and Colin Graves did mention it has not been as successful a period as people would have liked," Connor said. "I think everyone recognises we are in a period of change.

"I have no doubt Mark will have a huge impact. We will have some wobbles along the way but we do need to disturb the norm. He is perceptive. He has a lovely balance of kindness but also trying to get players to understand the brutality of professional sport.

"The challenge is how you harness that passion and innocence and genuine love for the game and keep everything that is special in a new professional era.

"If some of those 1.3 million girls who have started to play through Chance to Shine convert into cricketers we will have a more athletic talent pool. Cricket is going to be a viable option and just as normal as picking up a netball or tennis racquet. The professionalism of the game helps us achieve that, but it will not happen immediately."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo