Episode 23: Talking with ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

The rise of women’s cricket, in England and worldwide, is the biggest story in the modern history of the game. Clare Connor CBE is a witness to this journey and a key driver of it. As a cricket-crazed girl, she played in boys’ and men’s teams, not even aware of English women’s cricket. But still in her teens, she played Test cricket for England women, then captained the side to a famous long-delayed Ashes triumph. After retirement she became a top administrator. Since 2012 she has been the chair of the ICC’s women’s committee, and more recently became the ECB’s Managing Director for women’s cricket and a board member. From October next year, she will become the first woman President of the MCC – a men-only bastion for over 150 years. She is the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their latest cricket-themed podcast.

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She describes the thrill of learning about her MCC appointment from its incumbent, Kumar Sangakkara (then captaining MCC on tour in Pakistan) and the MCC Chief Executive, Guy Lavender. She outlines her ambitions in the role in making the Club more inclusive.

She outlines her early cricket career in and near Brighton, unaware of women’s cricket and with no role model in women’s cricket. Although the only girl in her early teams, she never felt like an outsider, through the unconditional support of her parents and team members. She describes the trial – and the shot in front of the then England women’s coach – that brought her into women’s cricket.

Clare speaks of the demands of her England international career, juggling them against her university studies in English and her later job as a teacher. Like her colleagues she was never paid match fees: initially they even had to pay all their own expenses, including overseas tours. Full professional contracts were introduced only in 2014.

She describes vividly the intense national celebrations in 2005, shared with the England men, of the double success in their respective Ashes series, culminating in a ceremony and a joint photograph at an empty Lord’s.

Clare picks out highlights of the global advance of women’s cricket, given new impetus by T20, notably its take-off in Thailand, its progress in Pakistan after the pioneering courageous work of the Khan sisters, and the current proliferation of women’s competitions. She outlines the ICC’s efforts to develop the game in new territories with no background in cricket, and to use the game for social unity and global healing after the pandemic. She cites dramatic statistics of the current TV and digital audience for women’s cricket in England and worldwide. She refers to the growing discussions of the possibilities of women’s cricket selling its own rights and obtaining its own sponsorship. (One downside to its growing success is the infiltration of attempted match fixing into women’s cricket.)

She emphasizes the huge importance of showcasing women’s cricket (with free-to-air TV coverage) at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, and the strong efforts being made to include both men’s and women’s cricket in the next Olympic Games in Paris. Time constraints might well require this to be a T10 format. Hybrid pitches (real turf matched with artificial) will be essential: they have played a great role in the spread of global cricket.

Finally she contrasts her early career, unaware of women’s cricket, with the ambitious ten-stage pathway devised by the ECB to attract girls and women into cricket and let them progress as far as they want. She concludes: “There are so many more opportunities now for girls and women to feel more part of cricket, as players, fans, coaches, and that’s a very exciting journey.”

Get in contact with the podcast by emailing obornehellercricket@outlook.com, we’d love to hear from you!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Next episode – Episode 24: Talking with Historian and Author, Dr Prashant Kidambi

Previous Episode – Episode 22: Talking with MCC’s Head of Heritage and Collections Neil Robinson

Listen to all episodes – Oborne & Heller on Cricket


Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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