Belinda Clark is highly regarded as a high achiever who prefers to shy away from the limelight. (AAP: Stefan Postles)
It was only March this year that Cricket Australia was promoting its “Press for Progress” report on the state of the game.
There’s certainly been progress, but not of the kind the body had forecast only months ago.
New chief executive officer Kevin Roberts has moved swiftly in an organisation desperate to remake itself after the release of the highly critical Ethics Centre Report into CA’s culture.
This week’s sacking of two senior executives — including high performance manager Pat Howard — has opened the door for one of the most under-rated yet highly-credentialed executives, Belinda Clark.
Today she was named as the interim head of High Performance and brings much experience to the role.
Clark is currently executive general manager of game and market development for Cricket Australia, a position she was promoted to after running the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, formerly the Australian Cricket Academy, mentoring Australia’s best up and coming players.
But her understanding of the game is far deeper than a couple of executive appointments.
The man she’s replacing was criticised heavily for not having specific cricketing knowledge.
Whether that gap is real or perceived, it is one Clark can fill in bucket loads.
Cricket’s Hall of Fame describes Clark as a “pioneer who dragged the women’s game into the mainstream”.
She now gets the chance to get the men’s team back on track.
Clark played for the national team for 14 years from 1991 to 2005.
At one point she was simultaneously playing for Australia, captaining the side and acting as chief executive of Women’s Cricket Australia.
Then-captain Belinda Clark poses with the trophy after winning the Women’s World Cup in Pretoria in 2005. (Reuters: Stringer)
Under her watch the national team won 84 of the 101 games played.
Twelve months ago Clark became the first female cricketer named as a Bradman Foundation Honouree, joining male luminaries such as Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.
Clark’s CV is littered with firsts, among them — the first female inducted into Australia’s Cricket Hall of Fame, the first cricketer — male or female — to score a double century in an ODI, and the most Test runs scored by an Australian woman (919 from 15 Test matches at an average of 45.95).
She’s also a proven negotiator, having successfully transitioned the women’s governing body to full integration with Cricket Australia.
Clark is also a qualified physiotherapist and completed an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2015.
She’s widely regarded as a high achiever who prefers to shy away from the limelight.
Her immediate challenge is to shift the focus of Australia’s national men’s team from one of “winning without counting the costs” to one that is more aligned with the public’s expectations as expressed in the Ethics Centre report — that the “spirit of the game” stands for something.
Clark faces a formidable task. It’s a position she’s most accustomed to, and one from which she most often emerges victorious.