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News

ECB forced to restart search for new chairman; interim Barry O'Brien steps down

Ron Kalifa emerges as favourite as ECB prepares to unveil Rob Key and name Ben Stokes as captain

Ben Stokes heads for a net during Durham's game with Nottinghamshire, Chester-le-Street, April 22, 2022

Ben Stokes is set to be unveiled as England's next Test captain this week  •  Getty Images

The power vacuum at the top of English cricket looks set to extend throughout the home summer, after the ECB was forced to restart the recruitment process for its new chairman, amid reports that Ron Kalifa - the man leading the nominations committee - is set to be put himself forward for the role instead.
And in a further blow to the ECB's hopes of a smooth transition, Barry O'Brien - who has been standing in as interim chair since the resignation of Ian Watmore in October - has chosen to stand down due to ill health, with Martin Darlow, the current deputy chair, stepping up as the stand-in's stand-in.
The chaotic scenario comes on the eve of Rob Key's unveiling as the new director of men's cricket, with Ben Stokes also set to be named as Joe Root's successor as Test captain. Simon Katich and Gary Kirsten are among the names being touted for the head coach role - a job that the ECB has confirmed will be split between red-ball and white-ball following the publication of separate job adverts - but none of the team appointments yet know who they will be reporting to in the long-term, with the governing body in a state of paralysis.
Kalifa, who has been on the board since November 2020, withdrew from the nominations committee at a board meeting on Tuesday, with his fellow non-executive director Brenda Trenowden taking over as chair.
Kalifa is understood to have the support of several key executives within the ECB, and could pave the way for Andrew Strauss to be put forward as the new chief executive. However, with the process set to extend into the summer months, the likelihood is a stay of execution for the incumbent CEO, Tom Harrison, who had been expected to step down after seven years in charge, but may now be required to stay in office as the only experienced executive on the board.
"The ECB Board met last night and has agreed to restart the process for recruiting its next permanent chair," read a statement released on Wednesday.
"Following an ongoing process involving a number of strong candidates undertaking interviews with both the Nominations Committee and a Cricket Panel it was felt that no single candidate was able to fully meet the criteria to become next chair.
"In light of this, the board decided that the process should now be restarted. A new Nominations Committee will be appointed, chaired by senior independent director Brenda Trenowden, to run the new process.
"In light of extending timelines in appointing a new ECB chair, Barry O'Brien, who has been standing-in as interim chair since October, will now step-down from the role due to ill health and hand over to deputy chair, Martin Darlow."
Stokes, meanwhile, is believed to have spoken to Key in recent days, with a view to taking over the Test captaincy following Root's resignation earlier this month.
He had been favourite to take charge, having served as vice-captain under Root, and is reportedly keen on the role despite the addition to his workload as a key allrounder and one of the Test team's few default picks. Stokes is currently working his way back from a knee problem but could make a playing return for Durham in next week's round of Championship matches.
Key is set to be unveiled at Lord's on Thursday, with the appointment of Stokes high up a to-do list that also includes recruiting for several vacancies in the wake of England's Test series defeats in Australia and the Caribbean.