Abraham Lincoln famously remarked, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
England cricket is having that moment right now with the County Cricket vs The Hundred debate. From the outside, everything seems fine—2019 World Cup victory, Anderson-Broad still going strong, finally a somewhat stable opening Test partnership in Burns-Sibley, and an enviable depth.
Deep down, though, there are gaping cracks. Tradition, history, club cricket, professional contracts, indirect impact on Tests are stacked against city-based franchises, new format, media rights, and emphasis on limited overs cricket.
Today, I am not going to present an argument from an English perspective—David Hopps, Andrew Miller, and George Dobell (twice) provide well-articulated balanced views. On the other hand, I express my observations as an outsider.
Is Controversy Helping County Cricket or Hundred?
Full disclosure—I am not from England. I have no particular affinity with a specific county and do not follow much of the County Championship, Royal London One-Day Cup, or the T20 Blast (unless of course Alastair Cook is nearing another ton or Shaheen Shah Afridi takes 4 in a row). Nor did I watch a single game of the Kia Super League.
Yet the endless debates and discussion on social media against The Hundred piqued my curiosity. I have since watched almost all games of The Hundred and have enjoyed them too. While County Cricket fans are trying to fight for their side, they might have actually helped publicize the Hundred.
Also Read: The Comedy of Overs: Shakespearean Parody Starring English Cricket, The Hundred, And County Cricket
The Good, Bad, And Ugly
So has The Hundred lived up to the hype?
First impressions—the possibility that a bowler can bowl 10 consecutive balls has added an extra dimension. Rashid Khan went as far as to say it’s now possible to take three hat-tricks! Imagine the flexibility with swing bowlers and death specialists. When a Joe Root-esque part-timer keeps it tight, let him or her continue.
I also like the speed of the game. The over-rate field placement penalty and the swiftness of DRS decisions has reduced the time down to less than 3 hours.
Most importantly, the cricket has been good, and it looks like a fun family time. Affordable tickets, priceless expressions of kids, last over thrillers, Lizelle Lee-Jemimah Rodrigues specials, find of Chris Benjamin, Alex Hales-Ben Stokes drama, and Bairstow being Bairstow. All good.
There is always room for improvement, however. Graphics are all over the place, crowds are not sell-outs, and even umpire Nigel Llong had to ask the DJ to dial it down a notch.
Disparity in Score Decreases
The simultaneous matches with the Women’s Hundred is turning out to be a gamechanger. The level of women’s cricket was criticized in Women’s T20 Challenge when the Velocity were bundled for 47 although conditions were not ideal.
In the Hundred, when the women’s team only scored 113-93, the men’s teams did even worse 87/10 a few hours later in a spin dominated pitch. The average scores are 124 and 137 so far for the women’s & men’s editions respectively, and quality of cricket equally enthralling.
Can County Cricket, T20 Blast, and The Hundred Coexist—Yay or Nay?
One argument has been why not just re-market the T20 Blast instead of creating a new format?
If we all agree that County Cricket, T20 Blast, and the Hundred are to coexist, the question then becomes of scheduling.
- County Championship: 18 Teams, 3 Groups, 90 matches, April-July
- T20 Vitality Blast: 18 Teams, 2 groups, 133 matches, June-September
- The Hundred: 8 teams & 34 matches for Women’s/Men’s each, July-August
Add the home Test summer, the English rain, and this is a packed schedule. The issue with the T20 Blast is that it is played over 18 teams, broken over several months, with numerous games on the same day. The momentum is stagnant, regular international talent not retained, and coverage low.
About Time England Dominate The League World
England are the current ODI World Champions and one of the favorites for the T20 World Cup. If there was ever a time to invest in a franchise league of international standard, it is now before the likes of Eoin Morgan head towards retirement.
When the IPL was launched in 2008, India still had legends like Dravid-Tendulkar-Ganguly-Laxman to build stable fanbases & drive spectators to the ground but it was the 2007 T20 World Cup victory that ensured T20 would succeed in India. Yes, it might be weird that Jonny Bairstow from Yorkshire is playing for the Welsh Fire. There maybe no natural County support for an artificial franchise league, but Dhoni & Raina are not from Chennai either (far from it!) and probably possess the largest IPL fanbase.
England was reluctant to invest in franchise cricket and suffered till the 2015 Cricket World Cup debacle as a result. The rest of the world allowed India to become a monopoly in the T20 market. One can argue that losing Buttlers-Stokes-Morgans-Archers to the IPL 2 months in the year is indirectly hurting the County Cricket. Had English cricket invested in a T20 league earlier and provided it a window so it does not clash with domestic tournaments, they would have been at a better place. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
There is still time. Who knows, a high-quality concentrated domestic tournament can extend England’s golden era and throw up new stars.
Better players, more competition, more spectators/TV viewership, more money, higher salaries—Players, counties, leagues, everybody happy?
Also Read: The Need For Champions League & a T20 League Calendar
Why Not Follow the India Model?
With 38 teams & multiple groups, Ranji Trophy, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and the IPL coexist. A separate window for the IPL ensures availability of homegrown talent as well as majority of foreign players. Ranji Trophy provides professional support, SMAT is scheduled strategically a month before the auction to showcase new talent, and the IPL, in return, provides developed players, academies, & scouting systems back to the domestic teams.
From the looks of it, ECB has almost made up its mind about the Hundred at least for a couple of seasons. So why not try to find a solution that benefits all parties involved instead of opposing it?
I will leave you with Michael Atherton’s warning on commentary today. Fans are drawn towards a new format because it is exciting and different. Administrators get greedy and keep expanding like the IPL and Big Bash. A few years later, the format becomes diluted and ‘loses its pizzazz.’
Just a short 1-month Hundred can probably survive and not hurt other formats. However, if this format is to spread to expand to more teams, other countries, or become an international format, then there will be detrimental consequences. Until then we can have some fun and adapt innovations from this experiment into the existing formats. Keep the Hundred simple, but do not forget the county game either.
Lincoln was right. Now England must choose—an internal divisive cricket Civil War or a mutual partnership?
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Copyright @Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams, firstname.lastname@example.org – 07/29/2021
Image Courtesy: Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com
Welcome to The Comedy of Overs, a parody play symbolizing the internal conflict of English cricket.
Puns definitely intended. Sarcasm galore.
The writer hopes to merely present the various views surrounding The Hundred—the good, bad, and the ugly in a playful fashion.
*Note: This play is more fun when you read it out loud*
Table of Contents
- ACT I: England Have Their Own League?
- ACT II: Who Is Even Playing?
- ACT III: The Rules
- ACT IV: The SOLILOQUY – Something Is Rotten In the State of England
- ACT V: The FINALE
- The Hundred
- Joy – Overly optimistic English cricket fan. Cheerful.
- Curiosity– What is life? Why are we here? Always asks questions, glass half-full kind of person. Philosophical.
- Suspicion – Why does anything even matter? Always ask questions, glass half-empty kind of person.
- Disappointment – We are all doomed from the start individual.
- Satisfaction – (cameo role)
- The Hundred – The new couple on the block.
- English Cricket – Thought he had everything figured out on 14th July, 2019, but is currently going through a mid-life crisis. Wants to be friends with the Hundred without offending County Cricket.
- County Cricket – Father figure of English cricket. Abode of wisdom.
- Moeen Ali & Chris Woakes (cameo role) – as Moeen Ali & Chris Woakes
- Bartender – (cameo)
Curiosity and Joy were strolling down the street in London looking for County cricket but collided with a couple—The Hundred. They decide to go to a bar and started introducing themselves, but little did they know that the conversation was about to go south really quick.
ACT I: England Have Their Own League?
The Hundred: “Hi, mind if we join you? We are The Hundred. English cricket is launching us!”
Joy: “Yay! England are branding their own league!”
The Hundred: “Yes super excited! Will be great for English cricket and women’s cricket. After years of delay, we will finally get our time at glory.”
Joy: “BUT….England’s cricket is already pretty great…Anyway I will miss the T20 Blast.”
The Hundred: “Well…The T20 Blast is not going anywhere…In fact, the quarter finals resume on August 24th.”
Curiosity: “Huh? How about County Cricket?”
The Hundred: “Still There.”
Joy: “Maybe they reduced a home England series from 5 matches to 3 to accommodate you.”
The Hundred: “Nope.”
Curiosity: “What??? How will English players survive with continuous cricket?”
The Hundred: : “Simple. Rest and Rotate. Specifically for series like India and New Zealand so England are all ready to go for the high pressure Sri Lanka series.”
Chris Woakes & Moeen Ali overhear this from the next table.
Chris Woakes & Moeen Ali (together): “We have built beautiful careers out of this Rest-And-Rotate strategy.”
English Cricket: “Yep! Never a dull moment with the me.”
*Chris Woakes walks out the door. England’s team management subsequently rests Woakes till the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
ACT II: Who Is Even Playing?
Suspicion and disappointment walked into the bar.
Curiosity: “So, how is the Hundred different from the T20 Blast?”
The Hundred: “Just 8 franchise teams instead of 18 counties. International talent of high standard. The same franchise for both women & men play on the same day. 100 balls. Graphics. Free-to-air cricket. Fireworks. DJ. Ice cream.”
Curiosity: “OOh international talent…you mean like the Pollards and Russells and the David Warners, right?
The Hundred: “Well…except those players. They withdrew due to injuries, COVID, and international duties.”
Suspicion: “Alright spill the beans. You promised us this great international talent. Who all we missing?”
The Hundred: “Shaheen Shah Afridi & Shadab Khan won’t be there…for starters.”
The Hundred: “And Zampa, Maxwell, Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Finch, Rabada, Pooran said bye-bye as well. And sounds like Lamichanne, who is already in England quarantining, had some visa issues, so he is gone too.”
Joy: “At least there is Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine, and Alyssa Healy for the Women’s Hundred.”
The Hundred: “About that…Perry, Healy, Devine, Amelia Kerra, Rachael Haynes, Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Ashleigh Gardner and a few more withdrew due to personal reasons as well. On a positive note, India did send Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, and Harmanpreet Kaur. Stefanie Taylor-Deandre Dottin-Lizelle Lee-Shabnaim Ismail-Dane van Niekerk-Laura Woolvaardt are some of the other talent on show.
Joy: “All hope lies on our great World Cup winning English golden generation. Glad they are still participating!”
The Hundred: “Yes, yes they are. Except Harry Gurney retired, Olly Stone is injured,…”
*under their breath, avoiding eye contact*
“Speaking of which, Mark Wood is preparing for the India Test series, and all the English Test players will only get 2 matches (Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Ollie Robinson, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Dan Lawrence, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes, AND Jonny Bairstow.) “
Disappointment: “I am going home. Australians, West Indies, Pakistanis missing? No Indian players either. Most of our home team is not completely available either. What fun are you? Sounds like nobody is playing.”
The Hundred: “Friends, Cheer up! The Kiwis, South Africans, and Afghans are still by us. Colin de Grandhomme replaced Russell. The great Devon Conway & Quinton de Kock were signed as replacements as well.”
Joy: “I am listening.”
The Hundred: “Destructive batters like Finn Allen, Glenn Phillips, Colin Munro, Colin Ingram, Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short. Bowlers of the calibre of Adam Milne, Mohammad Amir, Lockie Ferguson, Sunil Narine, and Mujeeb-Qais-Nabi-Rashid Khan.”
Joy: “Okay that sounds a bit better.”
The Hundred: “WAIT! There’s more. There is someone else. I am forgetting his name….Car…Carl,…?
Curiosity: “Carlos Brathwaite!!!!”
The Hundred: “But truly, English talent is on show as well. World’s best keeper Sarah Taylor & Liam Plunkett will be seen after a long time. At least for a few games, England’s A, B, C teams against each other! From the Heather Knights & Joe Roots to the Eoin Morgans & Alex Hales…”
Curiosity exits: Just as things were looking positive for this new group of friends, the police office barged it and took Curiosity away with the allegation that…Curiosity killed the cat.
ACT III: The Rules
County Cricket and English Cricket enter.
Suspicion: “You mentioned 100-balls. I mean, why? What is even the point?”
The Hundred: “Shorter game. Less time. More prime-time television. We are even penalizing the fielding time. If fielding team goes over time, they will have to sacrifice a fielder into the inner circle.”
Disappointment: “100 balls, T10 cricket, Ninety-Ninety. Cricket is dying. Timeless Tests—those were the days.”
Joy: “Yay, a 16.4 over contest! Love it!”
Suspicion: “So, just a reduced 20-over contest?”
The Hundred: “But there is more! Change of end every 10 balls. So you can bowl 2 overs of 5 balls each consecutively. Did I say over? What’s in an over? From today—no more overs! Only balls. “
County Cricket: “Frankly my dear, we don’t give a damn about your balls. Why would you steal our glory for the sake of 20 balls?”
English Cricket: “English Cricket needs to be at the edge of scientific revolution with the Hundred.”
The Hundred: “You see, there is a method in our madness. We are ahead of our times. Innovation and entertainment are our middle names.”
Suspicion: “Ah innovation—So no more soft signals?”
The Hundred: “Well not that kind of innovation. More like toss on a stage, fireworks, fancy helmets, white cards, ultra-speed DRS, a new DLS algorithm, original team names. Did I mention the graphics?”
Joy: “Yay! Hot pink, bright green, & black. Love the combination. It is so colorful!”
Disappointment: “NO! Hot pink, bright green, & black. Hate the combination. It is so colorful!”
Disappointment: “This is total garbage. You are taking my precious time away from the Leicestershire Vs Yorkshire 50-over Royal London One Day Cup. “
Suspicion: “Yeah why? I mean the T20 blast had full stadiums last week. Why not re-market the T20 Blast with strict over-rate rules, ‘innovation’, and free-to-air TV? The England-Pakistan T20I series was loved by everybody. Liam Livingstone was hitting the ball across the English channel!”
Disappointment: “County Championship, T20 Vitality Blast, The Hundred, One Day Cup, Tokyo Olympics…all at the same time.”
County Cricket: “By trying to do everything at once, you are not getting anything done. And hurting the sentiments of the traditional fans. It is hurting us financially, socially, psychologically. Where has your support gone? I have been waiting, waiting, waiting….”
English Cricket: “If The Hundred captures the imagination of the fans, I will re-distribute all the wealth to all four of you.”
County Cricket: “Not buying it. Let us settle this. What do you think about cricket?
Bartender: “Cricket. What cricket? Who cricket? I don’t know of any cricket.”
English cricket is on the verge of going crazy. *Thinking to himself*
The Hundred. Cricket. County Cricket. Fans. Kia Super League. Women’s Cricket. Wickets. Outs. Overs. Balls. Tradition. Evolution. T20. IPL. Money. England. It’s coming home. Phil Foden. Jason Roy. Sam Curran. Need to make things happen. Money. Test cricket. Dom Sibley. Axar. Embuldeniya. Sri Lanka. Super League. World Cup. Barest of Margins. More World Cups. T20 World Cups.
ACT IV: The SOLILOQUY – Something Is Rotten In the State of England
English cricket is now reflecting and talking out loud.
“To play or not to play, that is the question
Whether it is County Cricket, T20 Blast, Kia Super League, or the Hundred, it is England cricket that suffers,
Marketing, Media rights, & ticket sales of outrageous fortune,
Support traditional cricket fans & counties Or take arms against T20 cricket & the IPL
And by opposing, end English cricket. To die, to sleep
No more! And by sleep, to say we end the heart-ache and the 20 extra balls that T20 is heir to.
Free-to-air cricket—The BBC—aye there’s the rub!”
ACT V: The FINALE
Enter Satisfaction: Right as Curiosity was about to spend the night at jail, Satisfaction entered and bailed her out. She had found the lost cat and brought it back..”
Scene: Eoin Morgan is having that conversation with Alex Hales at a distance. Things finally begin to settle a bit.
County Cricket: “I have eighteen children and am concerned about their well-being. That’s all.”
The Hundred: “We are concerned about the existence of cricket in England in general. That’s all.”
Joy & Curiosity (Together): “Can we not be friends with both of you?”
Suspicion & Disappointment (Together): “It’s complicated.”
English Cricket: “Well, the Hundred is not going anywhere…but neither is the County Championship…or the T20 Blast. I know I am not perfect, but can you just give me one chance? If it doesn’t work out with the Hundred for the couple of seasons, we can move on.”
At the end of the day, the heavens opened up. The ‘Lord’s’ opened it is door and Joy, Curiosity, Suspicion, & Disappointment walked hand-in-hand with County Cricket and the Hundred to proceed and watch the game.
Alls Well that Ends Well.
Special thanks to George Dobell’s article The Hundred 2021 – With friends like these? A Hundred reasons why the ECB has failed the game for inspiration.
Cultural references to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Comedy of Errors, Romeo & Juliet, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
Also Read: Joe Denly and Joe Biden: The Importance of Being Joe, Why The World Needs Sam Curran: Calm, Charismatic, Courageous
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Also Read: The Hundred 2021: Everything You Need To Know Quickly – Rules, Teams, Expected XIs, Fixtures, Predictions
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Copyright @Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams, email@example.com – 07/23/2021