CRICKET’S GAMBLE: New city-team format, but will The Hundred work?
PA - ECB
Will The Hundred work? Cricket’s latest attempt to appeal to the masses will see eight city-based teams go head-to-head in a new format...
Teams assembled via an NFL style draft will play each other in a new format which will see each team face a maximum of 100 balls with the winner of each match being who scores the most runs, with the BBC set to show 10 men’s games and 8 women’s games live.
On the surface, it appears to be an exciting prospect as the world’s best players take each other on during the summer holidays but the ECB initiative is surrounded in controversy over cost, manufactured teams at the expense of those already existing and poor planning...
It was way back in October 2019 that the teams were first assembled.
There are eight city-based teams with 15 man squads. You have Birmingham Phoenix who will play at Edgbaston, Manchester Originals who will play at Old Trafford, the Northern Superchargers who will play at Headingley in Leeds and Welsh Fire who will play in Cardiff.
In addition there are the Trent Rockets from Nottingham, Southern Brave from Southampton and two London teams in London Spirit and Oval Invincibles. The city-based teams is similar to the Indian Premier League which has found global success.
However, for many of those supporting cricket in England, it is a problem as the current set-up is with 18 first-class counties and some of the most well-supported have been ignored by this new format as there is a gaping lack of representation for the South West or North East. The fans of all counties, but particularly those of the likes of Somerset and Durham, have been very vocal in their opposition to The Hundred on social media.
To add insult to injury, the best players that the 18 counties have spent years producing through their academies have naturally been drafted to play for The Hundred teams (with the ECB providing salaries those players cannot refuse) and will be unable to play for their counties in the 50 over Royal London One Day Cup.
On the flip side, the concentration from 18 to 8 teams will mean a higher standard of cricket. In addition, The Hundred teams will be allowed to field up to four overseas players, two more than in the existing county competitions.
The initial draft in 2019 brought some mouthwatering propositions as the likes of Australia’s Steve Smith and David Warner signed up to play. However, the 2020 edition was cancelled and the 2021 edition does not look quite as appealing as The Hundred is set to clash with numerous international games meaning a lot of the world’s top players have had to pull out.
Smith, Warner and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson are among those to pull out already with many expected to follow. In addition, many England players will also be unavailable for a large portion of the tournament due to the Test Match series against India meaning Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes will play just a fleeting part.
Will it work?
There is actually a lot to like about The Hundred. Cricket is a brilliant sport but doesn’t help itself with confusing jargon like ‘overs’ so I understand the decision to go for the 100 ball format and the fact the games will be on free-to-air TV is exactly what is needed.
I also understand the move to city-based teams but whilst I understand it, I’m not sure it was entirely necessary. Teams already play in these cities and I don’t think there’s any reason why someone would go and watch the Northern Superchargers but not the Yorkshire Vikings, who not only already exist but already sell out many of their T20 home games at Headingley in Leeds.
What might have been better is to have changed the existing T20 competition played by the 18 counties into a two division system with a ‘Premier League’ of 8 teams shown on free-to-air TV with year-on-year promotion and relegation.
This would have kept the current structure in tact, kept existing fans happy and also opened up the game to those yet to experience the joy of a high class cricket match.
However, the ECB have gambled a lot of money on this new project. Will The Hundred work?
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