Ronnie Irani steps down from Essex board


Former captain’s departure may hasten new deal for Alastair Cook

Ronnie Irani has stepped down from his position on the board at Essex, a move that may help to convince Alastair Cook to extend his first-class career by another season.

Irani, the former chairman of the club’s Cricket Committee, has been the centre of a season-long dispute at Essex, with a number of players raising objections to his interference in club matters.

Irani’s recommendation of Chris Silverwood for the role of head coach in 2015 was a key factor in the club’s recent spate of trophies, including two County Championships and the Bob Willis Trophy, as well two Division Two titles and the T20 Blast in 2019.

More recently, however, he attracted the ire of the players by recommending a review into an alleged drinking culture at Essex – an inquest which may have been related to the team’s celebrations after winning the Bob Willis Trophy at Lord’s last season, when photographs of beer being poured on the head of the young batter Feroze Khushi – a non-drinker for religious reasons – were circulated to widespread condemnation.

Irani is understood to have suggested such behaviour was not conducive to an elite sporting environment and may be deemed exclusive to those who do not drink. However, the insinuation of a lack of professionalism was a frustration to the club’s senior core, including Cook, 36, who was their leading run-scorer in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy, and whom Essex’s new chief executive, John Stephenson, will hope can be persuaded to extend his career by another year, following a further 611 runs and two centuries this summer.

While Essex did endure a below-par start to their 2021 campaign, resulting in them missing the cut for Division One when the first half of the season was concluded in July, they finished strongly to claim the Division Two title with a two-day win over Northamptonshire – a result that Dan Lawrence, their stand-in captain, claimed they would be reluctant to celebrate given their high standards in red-ball cricket.

Irani is understood to have held ambitions of becoming the next chair of Essex in the new year. But his candidature was opposed by many of the club’s grandees, including Graham Gooch and David Acfield, and he was a notable omission from Ryan ten Doeschate’s vote of thanks in his farewell speech at Chelmsford, as he officially retired after 19 years of service during Essex’s final match of the season.

Essex’s chairman, John Faragher, said: “I would like to thank Ronnie for his services over the last twelve years during which time the club has achieved considerable success on the field.

“Ronnie’s contribution on the Essex County Cricket Club board and as chairman of the Cricket Committee has been central to this success and we wish him well in the future.”

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