Brighton Cricket Dublin

The Hundred | The Latest Innovation in Cricket

Sunday evening, 20th October 2019, saw the latest innovation arrive from the world of sport coming in the form of ‘The Hundred’. Cricket has long been at the forefront of innovation, being one of the first sports to introduce technology. Since 2001 hawkeye has used for ball-tracking to give an accurate indicator for LBW decisions. Furthermore, cameras are used to interpret no-balls, run outs and potential catches. The general consensus is that technology has improved the game, eliminating some human error – in turn making the game fairer.

Of course this has taken time and patience to refine the technology and decision review process – which still isn’t perfect – but crucially HAS improved the game. In 2003, two years after hawkeye was introduced, Twenty20 was born. At the time, this new format was met with criticism from pundits, players and especially traditionalists who didn’t want to see the change of focus away from the longer format of the game. However, it’s pretty safe to say Twenty20 has encapsulated a new audience of cricket fans around the world. It has increased the range of skills from batsmen & bowlers alike and has brought a whole new level of finance to players that was previously not accessible.

Now it is The Hundred’s turn. Criticised by many before it has began, it needs to be given a fair chance. It is certainly going to attract a new audience, focusing on a younger crowd in particular. Cricket can be a confusing stats and numbers based game for many watching for the first time, but simply knowing there are 100 balls for each side goes some way to simplifying this. This is backed up by plans to introduce a ‘simplified scoreboard’ to keep spectators immersed in the event.

What is The Hundred?

The Hundred is a new, 100-ball format franchise tournament starting in the summer of 2020 throughout England and Wales. Eight new franchises, differing from the traditional county sides, have been formed with their 15-man squads now chosen following The Hundred Draft – a process in which each team would take turns to pick a cricketer they wish to represent them. The eight new teams are;

  • Trent Rockets
  • Southern Brave
  • Northern Superchargers
  • Welsh Fire
  • Oval Invincibles
  • Manchester Originals 
  • London Spirit
  • Birmingham Phoenix 

Each side pre-selected a centrally contracted England player prior to The Draft. Centrally contracted players are the top English talents that receive a salary from the ECB, effectively being ‘central’ to the squad. Captain Joe Root was selected by the Trent Rockets, whilst this summers heroes Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer ended up at the Northern Superchargers and Southern Brave respectively. Yesterday saw the remaining players for each squad drafted, which was a fascinating and tactical watch.

Although a new tournament and format, judging by the players and coaches that put themselves forward for The Hundred, it is going to be a thrilling spectacle. The likes of Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann and Mahela Jayawardene will be coaching, with Andre Russell, Mitchell Starc, Rashid Khan and Kane Williamson just some of the superstars that will showcase their talents to curious and expectant crowds next summer.

The idea of hosting a ‘franchise tournament’ is not something the ECB have introduced. Pretty much all the major cricketing nations host their own versions. India have the Indian Premier League (IPL) which has been around for more than a decade, Australia host the Big Bash and so on. These have largely been a resounding success with sell out crowds. So why shouldn’t England and Wales introduce a similar tournament?

The introduction of The Hundred can certainly be interpreted in different ways. On one hand, a new and exciting, simplified format is going to attract a new audience of fans and could enhance the reputation of the game not only in the UK but around the world. If a success, The Hundred could be a landmark moment for the game and ECB chiefs will be heralded as true innovators. However, criticism will come as there is a further shift away from Test cricket, the original and ‘pure’ format.

It is a difficult situation, Test cricket can produce thrilling and dramatic finishes, just look at Ben Stokes’ 135* not-out against Australia during the 3rd Ashes Test at Headingley this summer. But these finishes are few and far between, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, given the match is played over five days, one side – increasingly the home nation – normally comes out on top rather convincingly. Secondly, pitches are not designed to produce exciting cricket, with scores of 500+ regular achieved in India and Australia. This often leads to bore draws, which doesn’t inspire anyone to take up the sport. The Hundred has been designed to do just the opposite.

Whatever your view on the format, it is going to take place next summer, so should be embraced. Give The Hundred a chance, it could be genius.

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Image credit: "Twenty20 Cricket" Wiki