Rob Key has been backed to succeed in his new role as the managing director of England men’s cricket after being confirmed as the first appointment of what he hopes will be the “next great era” of the game.
Former batter Key was appointed amid a power vacuum at the England and Wales Cricket Board after the resignation of Test captain Joe Root on Friday, with head coach Chris Silverwood, batting coach Graham Thorpe and former managing director Ashley Giles losing their jobs over three successive days in February.
A surprise contender for the role, having primarily worked as a commentator and pundit since his retirement from county cricket with Kent in 2015, Key faces a massive task taking charge following 12 disappointing months of red-ball cricket, including a dismal 4-0 defeat in the Ashes.
Welcome, @RobKey612! 👏
“It is an absolute honour to take up this role."
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) April 17, 2022
“It is an absolute honour to take up this role. The chance to have an impact and make a difference is an opportunity given to very few and I will give it everything I have to try and shape the next great era of English men’s cricket,” Key said.
“Although at this current moment it has been a challenging time in English cricket, I also think it’s as exciting a time as I can remember.
“With two of our teams near or at the top of the world rankings and an undoubted amount of talent in our game, I hope to try and bring everyone along for the ride so we can all help take English men’s cricket to new heights across all formats.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, who has worked alongside Key as a pundit, is backing his former colleague to succeed.
“Firstly I’m very pleased for Rob, I think the ECB have made an excellent choice there. Even though at times he plays the fool, he is no fool,” Hussain told Sky Sports.
“At times he’s said things either on air or at the back of the box and you just think, ‘This lad knows his cricket’. He’s absolutely a cricket man from top to bottom.
“He’s played for Kent, he’s captained Kent and he’s obviously played for England and he’s been a broadcaster for six years.
“I think England have made a good choice, he is an excellent cricket man and he’s got a very good cricket brain.”
Key will also be responsible for the strategy behind the England men’s cricket teams and performance pathways, and will play a part in an upcoming high-performance review.
As a player, Key played 15 Tests for England between 2002 and 2005, as well as five one-day internationals and one Twenty20 international, including a Test double century against the West Indies at Lord’s in 2004.
Michael Atherton, another former England captain, warned Key will have a “lot on his plate”.
“His instincts on cricket are very sound, he’s got good cricket knowledge,” Atherton told Sky Sports.
“What he doesn’t have is managerial experience which he will obviously have to get up to speed on in the new job.
“There are a lot of appointments to be filled. He’ll need a new England captain, a new England coach and probably a new England selector so there’s a lot on his plate.”
(The England captaincy) is not something I have given any thought to because firstly I am not currently in possession of a shirt within the England Test team and my focus is very much on changing that by taking wickets for Nottinghamshire over the next few weeks.
One of Key’s first challenges will be to appoint a successor to Root, with Ben Stokes the favourite to take the role as one of the few players guaranteed to be in the Test team.
Long-serving seam bowler Stuart Broad appeared to distance himself from the captaincy in his Daily Mail column on Sunday morning.
“Naturally, I am aware that my name has been touted as a potential successor to Joe as England captain and I guess that is because I am an experienced centrally contracted player who has been around the international game a long time,” Broad said.
“However, it is not something I have given any thought to because firstly I am not currently in possession of a shirt within the England Test team and my focus is very much on changing that by taking wickets for Nottinghamshire over the next few weeks.”