Clubs back in busi­ness at Hun­dred draft

Do­mes­tic play­ers among most ex­pen­sive sign­ings Gayle and Malinga are two of the un­sold stars

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Cricket - Tim Wig­more

“I’m from Eng­land cricket,” said Jofra Archer, as he pulled his car into se­cu­rity at Sky stu­dios. “And I’m here for the draft.”

So be­gan the first Hun­dred draft: the first ever draft of its ilk in British sport, with each se­lec­tion made against a clock tick­ing down, nat­u­rally, from 100. And at 7:15 in Isle­worth, the Trent Rock­ets were en­trusted with first pick in their pod in the stu­dio, as their head coach, as­sis­tant and an­a­lyst nes­tled around a screen. They plumped for Afghanista­n’s Rashid Khan, a bril­liant leg spin­ner who thus ac­quired the hon­our of the in­au­gu­ral draft pick in the his­tory of the Hun­dred.

This was the night that each Hun­dred side went from be­ing merely a con­cept to a nor­mal sports team, with a fully-fledged squad and their own player sign­ings to be cel­e­brated and den­i­grated. This made-for-tv spec­ta­cle, that was in keep­ing with the com­pe­ti­tion that will ar­rive next year: a con­tro­ver­sial at­tempt by English cricket to ex­pand its foot­print in a cut-throat sport­ing land­scape.

Rashid’s se­lec­tion em­bod­ied one of the themes of the night. Spin­ners – es­pe­cially over­seas ones brim­ming with mys­tery – were among the most in-de­mand play­ers of the draft, un­sur­pris­ing given their great suc­cess in the Twenty20 game. Su­nil Narine, Im­ran Tahir and Rashid’s com­pa­triot Mu­jeeb Ur Rah­man were also picked up for the max­i­mum £125,000; in­deed, four Afghan spin­ners were signed. Nepal’s leg spin­ner San­deep Lamich­hane, who has played in a plethora of T20 leagues around the world, was also drafted for £100,000 by the Oval In­vin­ci­bles.

The de­mand for glitzy over­seas play­ers in the open­ing rounds was as ex­pected: An­dre Rus­sell, Aaron Finch, Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell and Aus­tralia’s Ashes hero Steve Smith, who is likely to cap­tain Welsh Fire, were among those also drafted for £125,000. Less en­vis­aged were a num­ber of do­mes­tic play­ers fetch­ing six fig­ures.

Lan­cashire’s cap­tain Dane Vi­las was the most cu­ri­ous se­lec­tion in the £125,000 round, be­ing picked up by the Manch­ester Orig­i­nals. Vi­las grew up in South Africa and played a soli­tary T20 in­ter­na­tional in 2012 be­fore sign­ing a Kol­pak con­tract with Lan­cashire.

Yet in many ways the draft was de­fined as much by who was not se­lected as who was. Chris Gayle and La­sith Malinga both went un­drafted: both had a £125,000 re­serve price, which – not en­tirely sur­pris­ingly – no one was pre­pared to pay. “I think they priced them­selves wrong,” said Shane Warne, head coach of Lon­don Spirit. “If they’d gone in at £100,000 and not £125,000 I think they’d have been picked up.”

In its own cu­ri­ous way, these non-drafts were a quiet vic­tory for the new tour­na­ment, an in­di­ca­tion of their se­ri­ous­ness in build­ing the best team, not merely re­cruit­ing the big­gest stars. For all their pedi­gree, both Gayle and Malinga are con­sid­ered to have their finest years be­hind them. They may well have only been avail­able for a soli­tary sea­son – Gayle has just turned 40 – and teams chose to build for mul­ti­ple years in­stead. Si­mon Katich, head coach of Manch­ester Orig­i­nals, picked the young English pair Phil Salt and Tom Abell, to go with pre-draft se­lec­tions of Saqib Mah­mood and Matt Parkin­son.

“I re­ally like the fact that the teams are plan­ning for the fu­ture a

‘I think they priced them­selves wrong. If they’d gone in at £100,000 they’d have been picked’

lot. You look at our side, you’ve got a lot of guys that are in their young 20s,” said Jos But­tler, who was al­lo­cated to Manch­ester Orig­i­nals be­fore the draft. “It’s fan­tas­tic to see all the coaches and staff look at it in that way rather than just the here and now. You look at Saqib and Parkin­son, they could be Manch­ester Orig­i­nals play­ers for 10 years.”

Given the op­po­si­tion of vast swathes of tra­di­tional English fans to the new com­pe­ti­tion, per­haps it was in­struc­tive that teams pri­ori­tised re­cruit­ing lo­cal do­mes­tic play­ers. The Trent Rock­ets re­cruited Not­ting­hamshire play­ers Steven Mul­laney, Tom Moores, Luke Fletcher and Matt Carter, as well as re­leased Luke Wood, to go with their pre-draft se­lec­tions of Alex Hales and Harry Gur­ney.

For those who have gam­bled in cre­at­ing the new com­pe­ti­tion, the hope is that, as well as in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the sport in Eng­land, the Hun­dred could also im­prove the English na­tional team, by grant­ing the best, young play­ers more ex­po­sure to the best play­ers in the world.

While the men’s teams as­sem­bled their squads – the Oval In­vin­ci­bles per­haps looked the strong­est – the night also saw work con­tinue on the squads be­ing as­sem­bled for the women’s Hun­dred com­pe­ti­tion. Teams in the women’s tour­na­ment ne­go­ti­ate con­tracts with play­ers, rather than use a draft.

The eight women’s teams each an­nounced a mar­quee sign­ing, with the Welsh Fire an­nounc­ing that they had signed Aus­tralia cap­tain Meg Lan­ning and South­ern Brave un­veil­ing New Zealand’s Suzie Bates, the No1 ranked player in the women’s T20 game.

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