In 2018, a new short-form competition was announced by the ECB. Unique to anything Cricket has ever seen, The Hundred was produced to create faster and more exciting matches. Originally proposed to launch in 2020, the competition was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the 2021 Cricketing calendar well underway, eyes are turning towards the new competition, set to commence in July.
Despite the ECB being the first to introduce a domestic T20 competition, its popularity and excitement have failed to reach the heights that have been achieved by, for instance, the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Hundred is ECB’s first step into ‘Franchise Cricket’, something they had previously adamantly opposed.
2020 saw the IPL’s popularity in the UK surpass any previous standards, even beating out some English Premier League football matches in terms of viewing figures. The Hundred is the ECB’s desperate attempt to cash in on growing demand for short-form Cricket, whilst revamping the domestic set up.
The Hundred is very much a part of the ECB’s wider plan to tackle falling participation in the game
The ECB’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said The Hundred was ‘a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game’. His sentiments were echoed by England’s One-Day Captain, Eoin Morgan, who described himself as a ‘big fan’ of the new proposed tournament.
The Hundred is very much a part of the ECB’s wider plan to tackle falling participation in the game and to capitalise on the success of England’s 2019 Cricket World Cup win, after an estimated 8.7 million Britons watched the final.
Television rights will be split between Sky and BBC. Ten of the games, including the final, will be shown on terrestrial television. Over a million people tuned in to the first day of England’s test with India, the first free-to-air Test series since 2005. It is clear that the ECB is attempting to make Cricket more accessible for the masses, in order to increase participation.
Undeniably, The Hundred presents itself to be an exciting spectacle for English Cricket. The prospect of the County structure’s best players competing with and against international stars, will surely ignite excitement.
For example, the Birmingham Phoenix have signed New Zealand Test Captain Kane Williamson and prolific T20 player Andre Russell will join England fast-bowler Jofra Archer for the Southern Brave.
For many, however, The Hundred is simply the beginning of the end for the County Cricket system, one that has been in place since the 19th Century. The tournament sees the establishment of eight new franchises based in seven cities (Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham, and Southampton).
Many Cricket fans will now have to travel to previously rival teams’ stadiums in order to support their ‘local’ side
Currently, eighteen teams participate in County Cricket competitions. This will mean many Cricket fans will now have to travel to previously rival teams’ stadiums in order to support their ‘local’ side.
Durham fans would have to travel 85 miles to see their local Northern Superchargers compete in Leeds. It raises concerns over the tournament’s long-term sustainable popularity.
Furthermore, Cricket fans and newcomers will be alike as they attempt to comprehend the new rule structure The Hundred brings. Alterations in over lengths and fielding restrictions, as well as the introduction of tactical time outs, are likely to present a challenge to viewers who look to understand the competition’s new ruleset. It seems the integrity of Cricketing traditions is being sacrificed for entertainment purposes.
All eyes will be on whether The Hundred lives up to the expectations set out by the ECB when it commences later this year. If it fails to attract new fans and alienates loyal County Cricket supporters, it will undoubtedly fail.
Yet, there is undeniably a buzz around The Hundred and English Cricket as a whole. If successful, The Hundred could be the catalyst for further Cricket modernisation.
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