Since the England Cricket Board first publicly floated the idea that would come to be known as the Hundred it has brought up more questions than it has answered.
The biggest question is how the ECB could possibly think that taking T20 cricket, sawing twenty balls off, and stitching a ten ball over into the simpering beast would rank as both innovative and simple.
England limited overs skipper Eoin Morgan became the latest member of the ECB’s coalition of the willing suspension of disbelief when he said: “The important thing to emphasise with the 100 ball is that it’s just an idea at the moment. It’s not set in stone, it was something that was an easy selling point to anyone who isn’t interested in cricket.
“A lot of my friends don’t really understand cricket, but if they watch the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics, they will watch any sport as long as they can understand it. With the 100-ball factor, that’s exactly what you’re offering, and the fact that it’s going on free to air as well, is about maximising its potential of explaining the game of cricket.
“If you have a nine-year-old kid who turns on the BBC and the 100 ball comes up, he says to his mum and dad ‘I really like this, can you explain it?’, the parent then becomes a coach because they can explain it. If it’s a normal cricket match, regardless of how long it is, 20 overs, 100 overs, if the parent doesn’t know anything about cricket, they’re not going to be able to explain it to the kid.”
I’ve read these paragraphs several times over trying to make some sort of sense of Morgan’s comments but I’m completely at a loss as to how he or the ECB think that simply because the format is a little bit shorter, with a weird ten ball over which we will get back to, it will somehow be easier for people who know nothing about cricket to explain to their children, but that is the crux of what we are being told.
Embarrassingly for someone who claims to be a cricket journalist I have to admit that the game can be difficult to explain to the uninitiated and uninterested.
Despite how comfortable and at ease I am with children, I don’t spend a lot of time around them but I have had the occasion to attempt to explain my beloved cricket to my boyfriend with incredibly limited success and I can’t imagine the Hundred would make that task any easier, because he just isn’t interested in cricket and you can’t make people like cricket by making it just a shade less like other forms of the game.
Morgan would have us believe the Hundred will be easier for non-cricket fans to explain to their children and my sincerest apologies to the skipper but that is just bullshit.
I can’t see thousands of new fans flocking in to cricket because non-cricket loving mums and dads will find it so much easier to explain.
Taken in isolation Morgan’s comments are inoffensive enough and while we feel his logic is flawed he in entitled to his opinion but his words come on the heels of some real clangers from ECB representatives.
— John Nicholson (@JohnnyTheNic) May 18, 2018
At the beginning of May we learned via the chairman of the The Professional Cricketers Association Daryl Mitchell: “The likes of Root and Stokes will be allocated to a team for marketing purposes but they won’t play.
“The ECB made the point that this new audience won’t necessarily know who Stokes and Root are.”
In April the ECB said their target demographic for the tournament would be ‘mums and kids’.’
Overall this gives the impression that the ECB, firstly are not interested in what existing cricket fans think about their tournament, secondly think mothers and children are simple minded, and thirdly don’t really understand marketing
Morgan’s comments however do raise an important issue and that is that the love of cricket is something often transmitted through familial bonds.
A lot of us who have been bitten by the cricket bug learned about the game from a family member.
For me that person was my eldest brother, he taught me how to hold a bat and how to bowl and explained the game to me and in playing against him and my other brother in the back yard I came to love the battle between bat and ball.
The problem with the Hundred is that the ECB are in the process of alienating the people who will have the task of explaining cricket to a new generation of fans. People who love the game as it is and don’t feel the need to apologize for it.
In purely financial terms the ECB may not need people to love cricket as long as enough people tune in and turn up but lets face it most human beings aren’t going to spend ten minutes watching something they don’t enjoy let alone a couple of hours.
Cricket lovers will turn up and tune in for hundreds of hours a week and transmit that love of the game to others just as they have done for generations.
The fundamental flaw in the Hundred isn’t what the ECB have done in shortening the format, it is how they have communicated their scheme to the public, with almost palpable contempt for lover’s of the game who have failed to generate the revenue the board desires.
Most of the people who lay eyes on this will be people who love and enjoy cricket and can rest assured in the knowledge that the ECB feel you are a super human being capable of understanding a game that has been enjoyed by billions for hundreds of years and forms a key part of the culture from Bangalore to Brisbane.
Short of the ECB sending Root and Stokes door to door to spread the good news themselves, the role of explaining cricket will continue to fall to lovers of the game in communities across Britain and the world, perhaps English Cricket could do with a few in the board room.
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