Australian cricket has lost arguably its most capable executive after the former national captain Belinda Clark announced her intention to resign from employment with Cricket Australia.
In a major blow to the community cricket department that she has extensively reshaped over the past two and a half years, Clark has chosen to finish up as a CA executive after first making it clear she had no intention of following Kevin Roberts into the role of chief executive. Nick Hockley is currently serving as interim, with a wider search still expected to be undertaken.
As one of CA's most accomplished performers over a long time, Clark held roles managing the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, as head of junior cricket and then community cricket as a whole. Vitally, she worked as interim head of team performance following the exit of Pat Howard in late 2018, up until Ben Oliver and Drew Ginn were handed joint roles nine months later.
This meant that Clark was in charge of the department responsible for the men's and women's national teams at the time that included the reintegration of Steven Smith and David Warner after their Newlands scandal bans. It also involved extensive planning for the difficult "double tour" of England for the 2019 World Cup and Ashes series. Australia's cup campaign made it as far as the semi-finals before the Ashes were retained in a drawn series.
"I have loved my time working for the sport and while this chapter is coming to a close after 20 years with CA, a further six years with Cricket New South Wales and a long-standing member of ICC Women's Committee, I am committed to finding new ways to give back to the game that has given me so much," Clark said. "The journey has been exciting and rewarding because of the many amazing people I have worked with across the community, State and Territory Associations, and CA.
"I am grateful for their support and am so proud of what we have achieved together. "My dream is to help young girls develop the confidence, skills and courage to step forward when leadership opportunities arise. This shift in my focus is timely as we navigate through significant global challenges - many of which need strong local and diverse voices to overcome. Cricket has been a major part of my life since I was a little girl growing up in Newcastle and it will continue to be for many years to come."
Clark, 50, has started her own business, The Leadership Playground, which has been devised to educate and mentor young girls int he fostering of leadership skills between the ages of 10 and 15. CA on Tuesday denied the Clark was exiting the executive role so she could move immediately onto the Board as an independent director later this year.
The nominations committee for board appointments is required to find an independent director to replace the outgoing Jacquie Hey, a director since 2012, with the strong preference understood to be for a highly capable female in the role.
Cricket New South Wales had earlier made it clear that it intends to nominate the former state premier Mike Baird as a board director, while wanting to see its current director, Richard Freudenstein, retained as an independent on the nine-person board, comprised of six state-nominated directors and three independents including the chairman, Earl Eddings. Clark is currently a director on the organising committee for the Twenty20 World Cup.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig