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Former Leicestershire chair Mehmooda Duke told MPs she feared being 'poster girl' for ECB inclusivity

Board members grilled by MPs on contents of letter during tough day at DCMS hearing

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
The ECB endured another tough day in Parliament on Tuesday  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The ECB endured another tough day in Parliament on Tuesday  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Mehmooda Duke, the former chair of Leicestershire, quit her post on the eve of the ECB's unveiling of their game-wide anti-racism strategy, because she feared being held up as a "poster girl" for the sport's inclusive ambitions, according to a letter she is understood to have sent to members of a Parliamentary select committee.
Duke had been one of only two non-white chairs of a first-class county - and the only female in such a post - when she walked away in November, four months ahead of her scheduled departure in March, with a call for "fresh leadership at national level" - a choice of words that seemed to point the finger at the ECB's chief executive, Tom Harrison.
According to The Telegraph, Duke's letter to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee told of how she had been "intimidated", "coerced" and "manoeuvred" by the ECB in the wake of Azeem Rafiq's claims of institutional racism in English cricket, adding that she walked away because she was being treated as a "token woman of colour" on a predominantly white, male board.
In her resignation statement in November, Duke said that cricket had been "torn apart" by the racism scandal, and that she was "deeply saddened by the hurt felt by individuals within our game". She has not spoken publicly since her departure, and she is due to take up a new role as High Sheriff of Leicestershire at the beginning of April.
During another difficult session in Parliament, the ECB's representatives - Harrison and Barry O'Brien, the interim chair, alongside non-executive director, Baroness Amos and deputy chair, Martin Darlow - were quizzed repeatedly on the matter of Duke's departure, but refused to respond directly, citing matters of confidentiality.
Julian Knight, the DCMS chair, put it to Amos that Duke's resignation must have been a "hammer blow to the ambitions of the ECB", given their stated aim of achieving 30 percent boardroom representation by women and representative ethnicities by April 2022.
Amos, who confirmed that she had spoken to Duke and had been given permission to discuss her concerns with the board, but not to divulge them at the committee hearing, replied: "I think it's a huge pity that she has resigned."
Kevin Brennan, the Labour MP for Cardiff West, then quoted what appeared to be extracts from Duke's letter to the committee, asking whether she had felt "intimidated, coerced, and manoeuvred by the ECB?" That line of inquiry did not receive a direct answer.
O'Brien, however, did offer a glimmer of detail when he was asked whether Duke had been "unhappy in any way with any of your personal dealings with her, in the way that you've handled her concerns?". He replied: "Yeah. She may have been."
When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, an ECB spokesperson confirmed that the board's senior independent director, Brenda Trenowden, would be looking into the comments that Duke had offered to Baroness Amos, potentially alongside one other board member.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket