On 20th October 2019, the main draft of ‘The Hundred’ will take place, signalling the start of the ECB’s new short-format experiment. The competition will be based around 8 franchise, city-based teams and will involve a completely different structure to anything cricket has seen before at the professional level.
In short, it is the ECB’s answer to the success of the IPL and The Big Bash, which is largely due to the free-to-air coverage provided in Australia. It’s safe to say that this the competition has caused quite a stir among English cricket fans and although I’ve loosely followed updates I wanted to dig a bit deeper. There have been some fairly mainstream criticisms about the competition and many questions still left to answer. So I’ve produce my 5 alternative questions left to answer about The Hundred:
- What is going on with the website?
The website is… weird. It seems obvious that the ECB have hired a marketing agency to promote the competition. However, the feel of the website and communication is slightly odd, it almost has the feeling that it could be a Year 10’s IT homework. I think that they’re trying a bit too hard to be ‘with it’. Writing in three-word sentences with neon colours doesn’t quite get the feel of cricket in England for me.
2. Birmingham and Nottingham or Stoke and Sheffield?
The Hundred’s website appears to have misplaced some of the teams…. https://www.thehundred.com/news/1257378/this-is-the-hundred-
On the page explaining how the competition will work, the graphic above is featured. It is clear that some designer has put the circles in place for each team and then thought “Oh s**t, gotta add some text in there.” So sorry Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, instead it appears as though games are going to be played at Burslem CC and Bramall Lane.
3. What’s the point in having the red-ball players?
The centrally contracted red-ball players will feature in the tournament, until the international fixture list kicks in fairly early on. The franchises will have the option to draft only one of these players from their respective regions. For franchises with more than one of these players it could be a difficult decision to make with Leeds, for example, having the choice between Stokes, Bairstow and Root. The players not picked up will then be available for draft for one of the other franchise teams that may not have an English test player in its midst. With so few games available for these players, it might not prove to be a shrewd investment.
4. Are we actually going to get any free-to-air coverage?
The draft will NOT be on free-to-air TV. I think that the inclusion of any cricket on free-to-air TV is a huge positive that can only help to encourage future generations of cricketers. Since 2005 (excluding the World Cup final), cricket fans have been rationed to either one-hour highlights on Channel 5 and snippets on BBC Sport, or forced to pay the monthly subscription to Sky to watch their beloved sport. You might then expect the re-introduction of cricket on free-to-air TV through The Hundred to be welcomed in by those who previously so loved being able to watch their sport on single-digit channels. They will have to wait for a bit longer though – the draft on October 20th will be broadcast by Sky Sports with the BBC “extensively” covering it through other channels.
5. Who are the ‘icon’ players going to be?
As a follower of county cricket, I’m scared of what The Hundred might do to this structure steeped in history. I am remaining open-minded for now, although I’m worried that counties’ revenues will be sapped and players will not get the opportunities they previously would have. Putting the controversy aside, I admire the ECB’s courage in what they are trying to achieve. The introduction of T20 in 2003 to the domestic schedule has been a huge success, but was seen as hugely controversial at the time. So why can’t history repeat itself?
However, the ECB already has a tremendously successful competition in the T20 Blast. There have been strong attendances coming in this year, off the back of England’s World Cup success and scheduling meaning that a large part of the competition was played in the summer holidays. It does seem to me that we already have a superb competition available and all that needs to change is how it is broadcast.
Yet, in a nod to the county game, each city-based team will have the opportunity to draft up to two ‘icon’ players from their feeder counties. This really intrigued me. Immediately, as a Worcestershire fan now living in Birmingham, I was thinking who I’d pick for the Birmingham team (Moeen Ali and Pat Brown were the two I’ve settled on for now). I think that this could cause some really interesting debate, especially across county lines.
By Rory Mathews
Photo taken from: https://www.thehundred.com/news/1335199/how-the-hundred-draft-works