Can ‘The Hundred’ win over cricket?

BY RILEY TAYLOR

The recent summer was a sensational period for English cricket. From winning an enthralling World Cup final to an explosive Ashes series, it has certainly been one to remember.

Naturally, it should now be time to ride off the back of the success by continuing to promote cricket. So, when the announcement for a new competition called the The Hundred rolled around, why did it get such a negative press and what exactly is the new format?

The Hundred was initially proposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in 2016 and it will begin next summer. Eight new teams have been formed and a recent draft including some of the best cricketers in the world occurred.

Overtime spoke to Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie, Sussex fast-bowler Tymal Mills and cricket writer Dan Whiting. Gillespie, the former Australian Test cricketer and head coach of Sussex and Adelaide Strikers, is in strong favour of the tournament.

“The Hundred fits in with a certain time frame that satisfies free-to-air broadcasters,” the 44-year-old told Overtime.

“It is easy for non-cricket fans to understand as each side faces 100 balls – most runs win. I do think that the novelty of the idea will bring some people to the game are curious and interested in what it’s all about.”

“There are some valid arguments against it but I’m all for trying new things, so we’ll see how it goes,” said the Australian.

However, cricket writer Dan Whiting is firmly against the format. “It will affect the quality of county cricket as counties lose their best players for the County Championship as well as the 50-over competition,” said Whiting.

The game will look to emulate T20 cricket with its explosive action but each innings will be 20 balls shorter and there are several rule changes. These include each bowling side getting a strategic timeout of up to two and-a-half minutes and bowlers delivering either five or 10 consecutive balls instead of the regular amount of six which has been commonplace since 1979.

For a competition that is supposed to be appealing for newer audiences and less complicated, there are certainly more complex rules than necessary.

There are eight new franchises in the competition: Birmingham Phoenix, London Spirit, Manchester Originals, Northern Superchargers, Oval Invincibles, Southern Brave, Trent Rockets and Welsh Fire.

“Franchises wipe out 150 years of history. English rugby stayed with the traditional club route, Welsh went with franchise, who has won more European trophies,” says Whiting.

With the introduction of new teams there comes a lot of issues. How the teams for The Hundred have been assembled have sparked a lot of debate.

“Counties will go to the wall and the big eight who host The Hundred franchises will take the money whilst the smaller counties miss out,” says Whiting.

There are 18 first-class counties in English cricket but, with there only being eight teams in The Hundred, it has meant that some counties have had to merge meaning that rivalries have to be set aside.

Furthermore, the merging has caused other issues in terms of travelling fans. For example, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Glamorgan have merged to create Welsh Fire. That means fans from Somerset will have to travel 79 miles for a home game.

The official draft for the competition was carried out in October with the head coaches for each team signing players for their franchises within certain price brackets.

There were a few surprises: Lancashire captain Dane Vilas was picked in the top bracket beating, Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga and Kagiso Rabada to the £125,000 haul.

“As a player who only plays T20 cricket, I was looking forward to it when it was first announced,” said Mills, who will feature for Southern Brave.

“I don’t think it will be that different. Obviously, there’s a bit of debate around it but overall the standard will be excellent.

“The Hundred emphasises the high standard of cricket domestically in England. It combines some of the best 90 players in England mixed with three world-class overseas players for each side.

“The standard of cricket is so good and so high so I think audiences will be large but it needs to properly affordable for new audiences and family, as the competition is in the summer holidays and is ideal for newer fans.

“Obviously, it has an effect on the wider game, the 50 over comp is being downgraded, counties will lose players (Sussex are losing 11 first team players).

“You can’t ignore the issues as they are valid, but I personally don’t think you can please everyone and I still think the competition is very much necessary.”

Gillespie added: “It’s great for the players, coaches and spectators to have so much talent in one tournament.”

With the draft finalised, attention will now turn to next year to see if the competition can truly win over not just cricket, but the rest of the sporting community.

(Feature image: PA Images)

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