Like many I am divided in my views over The Hundred. It was entertaining, but it wasn’t exceptional either in terms of quality of the games or the innovations. I suspect many of ‘us’ have reached saturation point as it has all started to merge into one and the excitement of watching the “big names” play has long been diluted as they never seem to be off our screens.
There is little excitement in seeing a “star” who has played in the T20 formats in Australia, India, Pakistan, The Caribbean and the UK. I am not saying they are not entertaining but the ‘wow’ factor has long gone. As such much of the excitement felt thrust upon, forced, over exaggerated and in many cases just manufactured. I hate to burst the bubble with families, woman and children have been going to the cricket for years, as have many from the more ‘diverse’ communities.
But I come not to put the Hundred to the Sword, much as I would happy to do so, as I can accept that it is going to be around for a few years at least. I suspect that like many a forced activity it will slip away into the history books in die course, but whist that doesn’t concern me the amount of damage it is will do whilst it is here does.
One positive from this years tournament has been a slow recognition of the inevitable and what most cricket fans with half a brain expressed concern over: the impact on the both the foundations of the game and the elite. Cricket is no different than any other manufacturing process: get them involved whilst young at grass roots level with clubs and schools, pass them on to senior cubs and counties, develop them at senior county level, enjoy them at elite level.
You wont get initial involvement without the enticement of the elite level and you wont get elite level without a strong supply at the grass roots level that then works through the system.
It is, however, easier to be critical than to compliment and it is never right to criticise without being constructive. It is positive that the likes of Atherton have been saying the schedule needs looking at (although as you will see below I differ in his opinion that it’s hard to see a solution), it is positive that the ECB have acknowledged a need to ‘look at’ the structure and have invited the Cricket Supporters Association to input.
Really though, how hard can it be, if you are prepared to compromise, be realistic and accept a need to balance objectives?
So here goes …….
We have a limited window for cricket in this country and no guarantees that the weather will do as we expect/want/need.
We can, hopefully, agree that competitions are best when they start and end in a continual time frame as not lest they are fairer if teams start and end with the same squads and conditions.
I would start the season with The Hundred. Being the shortest form it is less effected by the weather, and as many of the games are already played on Hybrid pitches I would stick with that for all games. I would retain the current format of double headers. Playing this up front launches the season with a bang. Allows the counties to see how their “stable” has weathered over the winter, allows foreign players to get some early season games under their belt (especially useful for those that are touring) and maybe find themselves a county for later in the season.
The County Championship has to come next. I like the three division format but am pretty relaxed. The main thing is that it played at the right time of the year, included the England Players for a minimum number of games and concludes before moving onto the next tournament(s).
White Ball – Red Ball – so time for White Ball again and is there any reason why the One Day and the T20 can’t run at the same time?
I have no doubts there will be clashes with other tournaments around the world, and people may argue player fatigue etc, but these are issues that a strong management would resolve. Make “our cricket” the priority so if English players can’t play in as many of the other short format tournaments so what – be honest, when was the last time any short format team started and ended with the same squad?
In my experience you start with a desirable structure and then address issues and comprise as you evolve the plan. You don’t prioritise one above the others “all for one and one for all”, and you don’t start of assuming what you can’t have.