The England and Wales Cricket Board’s great hope made its much-anticipated launch in a chilly warehouse on Brick Lane this morning.
After a great deal of fanfare and a glitzy, clumsy marketing campaign The Hundred, a 100-ball competition with eight new franchises which begins next summer, took its first steps, full of optimism yet tinged with cautiousness and mild confusion.
In hindsight, the morning after the Professional Cricketers’ Association annual awards might not have been the best timing, with the technology taking its cues from the attendees in its functionality. But, more importantly, in keeping with The Hundred’s trendy, youthful aesthetic, there were “43-year-old blokes wearing jeans,” as ECB commercial director Rob Calder joked.
After the powerpoint presentation was struggled through, the process of the draft on 20 October explained – the team names had leaked months earlier via trademark applications – and the bright coloured, snack sponsored kits had been paraded, the stage was set for the players to allay any remaining scepticism.
England and Surrey stars Jason Roy and Sam Curran went about the task, but like so much around the competition, had an approach of enthusiasm mixed with uncertainty.
Does Roy think the format will be like Twenty20?
“I think you go out there with the same intent, especially as an opening batsman, and as an opening bowler I suppose your intent and plans might stay the same,” he said. “But, if I’m honest with you, I don’t particularly know the exact format of how it works, bowlers from one end and so on, I need to learn a bit more about that, and then just find a way of adapting to it.”
Curran, who like Roy has been selected by the Oval Invincibles but will ultimately be hoping to play Test cricket for England next summer instead, had a similar response.
“I’ve heard a few rules about 10-ball overs, or something like that, so I think that will be interesting in terms of tactics,” he added. “Do you keep bowling the same bowler? No one has played it so there’s no right or wrong.”
Putting aside the vagaries around the specifics of the format there are, of course, genuine reasons to be excited about what is to come. Besides the intrigue of the unknown, The Hundred will be shown partly on free-to-air television and will put men’s and women’s cricket on an equal footing.
“We need to broaden our base, make it more gender neutral and appeal to different groups of people,” said England captain Heather Knight, who has joined the London Spirit. “I grew up watching the 2005 Ashes on Channel 4 and, as they say, you can’t be what you can’t see.”
England bowler Anya Shrubsole, of the Southern Brave, added: “Part of this competition is having two teams on the same platform, playing under the same banner, with the same name and same kit. Having experienced playing in Australia it’s something that has worked really well in the Big Bash and I see that working here, especially with double-header fixtures.”
With a player draft on the horizon later this month, a mammoth marketing budget and the BBC and Sky as stakeholders, The Hundred is bound to attract plenty of attention, even if for now it is just based on curiosity.
“People love to hate stuff and obviously it’s quite a big change in the format of the game,” Knight said. “I think once it gets going and people see the standard of the cricket and the things that surround the games – the entertainment stuff – hopefully people will get on board with it.”
Roy, in slightly more blunt terms, agrees. “That first game, people will watch it, even if they think it’s a crap idea,” he said.
“They’ll want to see if it is a bad idea. I don’t think anyone is just going to fob it off. People will be intrigued by the set-up.”
Main image credit: Getty Images