Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

IT’S JUST NOT CRICKET

Espite challengin­g igins The Hundred could become the game’s next big thing, Robert Craddock writes.

-

A CRICKET competitio­n focused on children and families. It may sound like the sweetest of concepts yet it started as a bitter, uncivil war.

England’s new cricket competitio­n – The Hundred – was launched this week after a three-year wait featuring allegation­s of money-grabbing, disloyalty and bastardisa­tion of the game.

Cricket, so deeply chained to its origins, especially in England, never does change well, despite the fact it often emerges a better product for having to put itself through it.

Many of the arguments against the 100-ball format were the same before Cricket Australia launched the Big Bash and, while that competitio­n’s appeal may have flatlined, the BBL has done a wonderful job at throwing a net over youngsters who were previously indifferen­t to the sport.

For all the criticism, The Hundred started with a rousing women’s match on Wednesday which finished with a standing ovation as The Oval Invincible­s beat the Manchester Originals with two balls to spare. Even the critics conceded it was a bright start.

There were only 7000 fans but it was a solid start amid rowdy pop music, fireworks and jazzy uniforms and plenty of young, fresh eyes watching.

“I suspect The Hundred will be a success,’’ The London Telegraph’s chief cricket writer Nick Hoult said.

“The impossible thing to predict is the effect on county cricket and who will feel the squeeze. There is only so much space in the calendar and money to go round.

“The Hundred as a format is not really the issue. We have had a T10 league before so why not a hundred balls? The bigger debate has been over the removal of power from the counties and that has become cricket’s culture war with The Hundred and change in one corner, and the traditiona­l county follower in the other.’’

English officials were mercifully relieved that at last the fireworks were happening on the field as men’s teams, including four coached by Australian­s Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann, Simon Katich and Tom Moody, started hostilitie­s.

In the three years since The Hundred was launched with a rushed press release, the competitio­n was seen by many members of the cricket establishm­ent as the game’s version of Donald Trump – brash, offensive and easy to pot.

The initial suggestion by the ECB that it was “not for traditiona­l fans’’ didn’t go down well with fans who protected their right to make their own minds up. By the time officials backtracke­d from that remark it was too late. Then former ECB boss Colin Groves called the T20 Blast “mediocre’’ in a way of boosting and justifying The Hundred, which sent sparks flying.

The ECB waited more than a year to do a press conference on The Hundred and that allowed counties to open fire on leaked stories, like a proposed, but since abandoned, plan to remove lbw decisions.

The competitio­n was designed by a body concerned by the game’s diminishin­g returns from an older fan base but unlike Twenty20 cricket, invented by England and considered the brainchild of marketeer Stuart Robertson, no English official has claimed to have invented The Hundred.

The eight-team, seven-city 32-day men’s and women’s format has pitched the game back on to free-to-air BBC with a massive promotiona­l budget and commentato­rs told to keep it simple to a potential new audience.

Subscripti­on network Sky showed it and was expanding its potential by putting it on a YouTube channel while the games were also being broadcast in Australia on Kayo.

At halftime in the final of Euro 2020 where Italy beat England, Gary Lineker cut away to a 30 second promotion for The Hundred watched by 27 million people. That’s huge.

England’s counties were not happy because they were not officially aligned to it and there was a feeling it would make their current T20 and 50-over competitio­ns look as ancient as that old mobile phone which should be hidden away for good in your bottom drawer.

The Hundred has been modelled on the Big Bash because while watching television from Australia showing dads and kids, there was a feeling England’s T20 competitio­n was more of a lad’s night out.

Speed dating was an early attraction at English T20 games but like the cricket itself, the participan­ts found rushed introducti­ons were never easy.

 ??  ?? Harmanpree­t Kaur, of Manchester Originals, bats during The Hundred match against Oval Invincible­s at The Oval this week in London.
Inset: Young cricket fans cheer, and English pop singer Becky Hill performs at halftime.
Pictures: Getty Images
Harmanpree­t Kaur, of Manchester Originals, bats during The Hundred match against Oval Invincible­s at The Oval this week in London. Inset: Young cricket fans cheer, and English pop singer Becky Hill performs at halftime. Pictures: Getty Images
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia