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Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes has retired from one-day internationals but will continue to play in Test and T20 for England

According to England and Wales Cricket Board interim chief executive Claire Connor, Ben Stokes’ warnings about the top players’ schedule requirements were “absolutely” heard.

England Test captain Stokes retired from the one-day international last month, partly because of the tight schedule.

He and Jonny Bairstow also opted out of The Hundred for a break.

“We have to listen to those who are expected to provide, entertain and inspire,” Connor said.

The former England women’s football captain temporarily stepped down as the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket after Tom Harrison stepped down as chief executive in June.

Connor is likely to hold a temporary position at least through the fall and has not ruled out applying for a full-time job. In addition, a new chairman of the board is about to be appointed.

In a wide-ranging interview, Connor told BBC Sport:

  • It was a ‘huge blow’ hundred yuan Miss Stokes and Bairstow
  • Process of ‘healing’ after racism scandal has begun
  • British cricket should brace for more discomfort with an independent report on the fairness of the game to be released later this year
  • Commonwealth Games Women’s T20 to paint ‘favorable picture’ for cricket’s Olympic bid
  • ‘Unpopular’ decision may have to take over domestic structure to benefit England men’s team

“We listened carefully to Ben”

After announcing his retirement from the ODI, Stokes said: “There’s so much cricket right now that people can’t play all three formats at the same time.

“We’re not cars, you can’t just fuel us, we’ll go out and be ready to fuel again.”

Connor, who has made more than 100 appearances for England, said she didn’t have “all the answers” to ease a tight schedule, but she did understand the need to limit demands on players.

“We’ve listened carefully to what Ben has to say,” she said. “That’s something we have to address – that’s what we do with the players, the other boards, the International Cricket Council and the Professional Cricket Association.

“Players are at the heart of how we move the game forward. Without them, our game would not have the wow factor to inspire.”

The Hundreds begin Wednesday with defending men’s champion Southern Warriors Easily beat Welsh fires.

While Connor acknowledged the absence of Stokes and international team-mate Bairstow and injured England captain Heather Knight from the women’s game, she said there would be no “season two syndrome” at the game.

Connor noted that 500,000 tickets had been sold before the race, just 10,000 fewer than the total for the inaugural event last year.

“There should be confidence throughout the game that we are heading for another fantastic month of 100-ball cricket,” she said.

‘Healing has begun’

Connor takes over as chief executive a year after British cricket was engulfed by racism allegations from former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq and others.

Rafiq called British gaming “institutional racism”, while a parliamentary report suggested that public funding should be halted unless “sustained, visible progress” is made in eliminating “entrenched racism”.

In response, the ECB released a five-point plan in November that included “12 practical actions” to address discrimination and racism.

“The game came together and apologised to the people it let down,” Connor said. “We’re not where we need to be, but we’re making really good progress.

“I think recovery has begun. We fully recognize that we are not yet a modern, inclusive movement and we need to make everyone feel welcome in it.

“It’s about cricket being everyone’s game, achieving gender balance and serving a community that has let it down in the past.”

In June, Yorkshire and some were charged by the ECB over allegations of racism involving the club.

One of the accused former coaches, Andrew Gale, said he would not be involved in the process, had not been interviewed by the ECB and that his “life was defined by unsubstantiated allegations”.

However, Connor said “categorically” that the disciplinary process, led by the independent Cricket Disciplinary Committee, was fair to all parties.

“I’m not under any illusions about the happiness challenge this presents to many people,” Connor said.

“I have every confidence that it is robust, fair, and will draw the conclusions we need to reach in order to move forward.”

In addition to the racism inquiry, the Independent Commission for Cricket Equity is due to release a report later this year.

Connor added: “I don’t think we should be under the illusion that the game may have had another uncomfortable period to accept and grow.”

“I believe what they are telling us will be a fair picture of our reality and the truth that cricket still needs to improve. We have to accept that.”

Domestic game may be ‘undesirable’ decision

Former England captain Andrew Strauss is leading a “high performance review” aimed at making the men’s national team the best team in the world in all three formats.

Part of the review may involve proposals to change the structure of the domestic game.

On Wednesday, Stokes appeared to tweet support after the cricketer reported on a fan poll that showed opposition to reducing the county championship.

“It’s so damn good,” he wrote.

While Connor explained that it was too early to know what the recommendations were, she suggested that if they were for England’s progress, “unpopular” decisions could be made.

“The main task of the high performance assessment is to make the England men’s team the best in the world across the three formats,” she said.

“The men’s domestic structure is a central part of that, in terms of where players develop and how English cricket as a system plays into the overall ambition.

“This is an opportunity for cricket to move forward and make systemic improvements.”

“50-50” on 2028 Olympic selection

Connor admitted she was “in tears” when she saw England take part in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, with the Women’s T20 match marking cricket’s return to the game after a 24-year absence.

More than 150,000 tickets have been sold for the Edgbaston match, meaning the Olympics will have a higher average attendance than any other global women’s cricket tournament.

While Connor admitted she was “50-50” on whether cricket would succeed in pushing for its inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, she believed the Commonwealth’s success would drive the bid.

“Looking at the data, ticket sales and momentum of women’s sports will paint a favorable picture,” she said.

“Conversations are taking place with the ICC and the IOC about how cricket will work for the 2028 Olympics and what it will be. Is this a minor tournament, men’s and women’s, or women’s only? All of this will be resolved pass.”

When asked if she wanted to keep the CEO job permanently, Connor admitted she wasn’t “put off” by taking the role on an interim basis.

“It’s an honor to be in this position,” she said. “I’m enjoying it and I’ll see where I am in the next few months.”

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