Tom Abell ready for ‘lots of excitement and plenty of nerves’ at Hundred draft

Hundreds of cricketers across the country will be tuning into the Hundred draft on Thursday hoping to land a deal and Somerset captain Tom Abell speaks for them all when he says the experience brings “lots of excitement and plenty of nerves”.

With the player retention period closing last month, there are 63 contracts up for grabs in the first televised draft since the inaugural event in 2019, with 30 available in the men’s competition and 33 in the women’s competition.

And the sheer weight of numbers means there is a fierce clamour for contracts, with 252 men and 113 women putting their names forward from the domestic game, joined by an overseas contingent that numbers more than 500.

Abell, who was let go by Birmingham Phoenix after two years of injury frustration, enters with a reserve price of GBP 40,000 and is understood to be on the radar of a Welsh Fire team with a major rebuilding job on their hands and a vacancy at skipper.

Having finished bottom during a winless 2022 campaign, new head coach Mike Hussey has plenty of leeway to remould the squad, with eight vacancies including two at the maximum GBP 125,000 bracket and one at GBP 100,000.

But Abell admits there is a sense of uncertainty as he waits to see how deals go down.

“There’s always an element of heading into the unknown when you go into a draft, and like a lot of people I’m hoping for the best,” he told the PA news agency.

“There are a few conversations that happen, you get a feel for whether there’s any interest in you but it all depends what happens in that room, who takes who and which picks come through. When the draft takes place, there is going to be lots of excitement and plenty of nerves kicking around, I’m sure.

“Birmingham were very good to me but I haven’t had much involvement due to injury, so I’m looking for a fresh start. Hopefully I get one and I can stay injury-free to make the most of it.

“The Hundred is a huge platform and a massive opportunity. I’ve witnessed how it’s helped the growth of people like Liam Livingstone, a top player who showed really how good he was in the first season, and Will Smeed, who scored the first hundred.

“With the big crowds, top players and the TV audience, if you can get in and perform it can only be good for your career.”

Southern Brave v Welsh Fire – The Hundred – Ageas Bowl
Ben Duckett is among the players looking for a new home after leaving Welsh Fire (Adam Davy/PA)

While all eyes will be on the Welsh Fire trolley dash – with Hussey overseeing the men’s overhaul and the women’s team alone in using only three of their four permitted retentions – there is business to do across the board.

In the men’s draw, Oval Invincibles have both GBP 125,000 spaces open, while Birmingham Phoenix, London Spirit and Trent Rockets all have one.

Resurgent England batter Ben Duckett, Tom Banton and Sam Hain are among those looking for new homes after departing Welsh Fire, while seamer Reece Topley, leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, David Willey, Olly Stone, Stevie Eskinazi, Jamie Smith and Jake Lintott are among the most prominent names on the long-list.

In the women’s draft, there are five centrally contracted England players available – Danni Wyatt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley and Sarah Glenn – though some of those could be picked back up by the former teams using a ‘right to match’ card.

Wyatt is the only domestic player carrying a reserve, going in at the top fee of GBP 31,250. Indian duo Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues have also come in at the maximum base price, as well as New Zealand’s Sophie Devine.

There is a wealth of imported talent to choose from in the men’s side too, with Australia’s Mitchell Starc a surprise entrant given the likelihood of his heavy involvement in the preceding Ashes series. He joins compatriots Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis in registering at the maximum base price, alongside Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan and West Indian Kieron Pollard.

Availability is set to be a big factor in who gets taken on, with New Zealand’s clear August schedule increasing the potential value of picks such as Trent Boult, Kane Williamson, Lockie Ferguson, Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell.