ECB’s brainchild the hundred ball tournament was left in an ambiguous state after the COVID-19 outbreak in March worldwide. This shelved an ambitious tournament whose draft was in deliberations since 2018.
It was unique in a number of ways, but the uncertainty with the Pandemic outspread put a halt to its commencement. The ECB had already suspended all cricketing action till July-2020. The 100 is a tournament that also chose overseas players, it is unlikely that all the players chosen would be available for the tournament play in the current year.
The commencement of the tournament right now is off the charts and is expected to happen later owing to the lockdown.
The T20 format was not successful unless a country worked on it and implemented it in a deliberate manner. The 100-ball cricket is no less an exception, it had to handle criticisms and face the wrath of the players who feared the sidelining of the longest format of the game. Life after T20 cricket for many players have given a new ray of hope to survive in some form in a game that is filled with uncertainties.
But what was the newly evolved concept in cricket about? Has the fresh inclusion of a brand new style or a format has its promise to unleash?
The players and the franchises, county cricketers were puzzled since the new concept was initially announced by the start of 2017. The evolution of an idea and transforming the new format of cricket into a solid concept did experience dips and rise in the process that followed. The timeline indicates its highs and lows that ECB had to encounter.
The initial draft concept was a diverse idea that was on charts since March-2017. At the Royal Institute of British Architecture, Tom Harrison, the Chief Executive of the ECB unveiled a new T20 tournament with a motto to attract “new fans”.
Then the current Director of the ECB, Andrew Strauss reinstated the idea to draw the attention of the “Casual audience”.
Then ECB cleared the air by telling that the tournament’s driver is the reach out to “the T20 audience and the different Audience”. For example, it could be people of different ages or some of them who follow other sports except cricket.
Its targeted area was to reach out to a wider section of followers, including the non-cricketing spectators.
The Hundred cricket was said to be a part of the five-year growth strategy for the growth of the sport.
To take this idea forward, the venerable ECB set up a Joint working group that consisted of ECB Director, three County- Directors and the PCA (Professional Cricketers Association) to formulate a detailed plan for the brainchild to take a leap forward.
They worked out the in-depth details regarding the new tournament.
It was toward the end of March-2019 (Spring), ECB had declared that it would disclose the complete framework of its pet project. It only could reveal the skeleton details of the upcoming tournament that included only operational frameworks. The details that were excluded were:
- Playing hours
- Franchises and its names, colors, and branding
By this time, there were many questions that arise during this period, while the concern regarding the new tournament was popping out.
One of the primary issues was the sidelining of the county season which is even now well regarded and sought out amongst the Kolpak signatory countries. The county cricket which has 18-teams competing along will have a trimmed season and a shortened version of the tournament. With an impending pressure on the small counties of losing players due to the act of force and power by the larger counties for players, staff, and fans. They will be left out with a mere fragile team that lacks force.
The franchises that were to be announced were not based on distinct themes but instead more on branding and values.
There is also a conflict of interest arising between the players to choose between county cricket and franchise cricket.
From a draft of 570 players registered, it is only an average of 100 made it to the squad list. The role of batters and bowlers stands limited as fewer players are doing less.
Players also get worried that no new players can sneak through the playing XI. They are not guaranteed a game even though they are chosen.
The gender pay gap is a big vacuum that ECB got to work on. A male player will earn about 125,000 Euros while a female cricketer will earn about 15,000 Euros in a month-long tournament.
While the Women’s T20 Super League is set to be replaced by the Hundred, fewer and fewer players have the scope to get the exposure of Franchise cricket. From the domestic circuits, there will be a dip in the performance of the players who make it directly to the International circuit.
Only exposure and experience will improve their game and techniques. Participation rate and the draft process is itself a way to shut the doors for their entry to the Hundred. BBL and IPL have a window to include Rookies into their teams from various teams affiliated to ICC.
This was a part of the ICC Rookie placement program. This is absent in the new format of the game.
The Draft took place in October 2019, star players like Rashid Khan, Steve Smith, Andre Russell and Kane Williamson were chosen. The draft process was a quick-paced event like the format itself. The selectors had to make their choice within 100-seconds. Each team will have a choice to pick from seven rounds with each team given a chance to pick at the first instance on a rotational basis.
The format stands on a quick-paced and highly shuffled platform, that is likely to undergo a revamp in the coming years. Bowling ends change after every 10 balls, the coach’s entry into the field and many other regulations will need much more clarity for its inception.
The eight teams competing in the tournament are:
- Birmingham Phoenix
- London Spirit
- Manchester Originals
- Northern Superchargers
- Oval Invincibles
- Southern Brave
- Trent Rockets
- Welsh Fire
That being said, here’s what can’t be ruled out about concepts like The Hundred.
True this is an age where attention spans are shorter than before where Test Cricket- once the standard-bearer of excellence- is having to fight for attention.
Moreover, cricket in a surge for newer audiences, wider eyeballs, and shall we also say the buck-spinning hoopla always keen to expand.
Maybe reducing the duration of games is the way to go, not necessarily increase it.
But a question must be asked.
Today, it’s The Hundred.
Earlier it was Twenty-20, the current lifeline. Tomorrow it could be ‘The Fifty.’
Where’s this heading? Can an introduction of fascinating rules, such as making the contest a level-playing field (the game already hardwired to ‘favor’ batsmen) be the way to go instead of introducing newer formats?
Don’t we have three formats already?