For those of us who have loved and cherished county cricket all our lives, the ECB’s new Hundred proposal (or Harrison’s Harebrained Hundred as I like to call it) is probably our darkest hour. We need help to stop this monstrosity that takes the money we’ve all invested in the game – through ticket purchases and Sky subscriptions – and then spends it on a competition that isn’t for us.
The Hundred is a terrible concept that ignores and quite frankly insults existing cricket fans. It takes the best players away from the forms of cricket that are for us (the county championship and / or the domestic 50 over competition) and may also threaten the counties’ relevance and therefore the whole fabric of our existing domestic structure.
I was therefore encouraged to read, as I’m sure many of you were, that the PCA could end up blocking the new tournament (henceforth referred to as HHH). According to the PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell, a county stalwart and much respected former captain of Worcestershire, the players are somewhat nonplussed at the idea of HHH and have major concerns. Although Mitchell was diplomatic in his language, one sentence really resonated: “there is no competition without any players”.
Could the PCA lead a players revolt that blocks HHH? I would think it’s very unlikely. The players are paid by their counties who in turn receive a major part of their funding from the ECB. Several players will also earn an absolute killing from the event. Indeed, the ECB have quite wilily suggested that a place in each HHH squad could be reserved for standout performers in The Blast; therefore unheralded players who missed out on the draft could yet get a taste of the HHH pie.
Having said that, however, the players seem well in tune with the fans on this one. Mitchell reiterated that the PCA is still “very keen that the pinnacle of the domestic game is the Championship and the pinnacle of the international game is Test cricket”. This would have been music to most cricket supporters’ ears. What’s more, every little surely counts. It would definitely be harder to the ECB to progress HHH if the players, as well as the supporters, were opposed to the idea. After all, who wants to watch cricket involving players who aren’t invested in the action?
Consequently, it’s quite possible that the PCA is our best hope of stopping this horrendous bastard of a competition. It’s very hard for us supporters to do anything because the ECB can simply say “it’s not for you”. Supporters boycotting the event therefore won’t have any impact. In fact, the ECB are probably aware that they’ve alienated most existing fans and therefore they won’t be counting on us to boost attendances anyway.
The players, however, are a different matter entirely. The ECB actually need the players; therefore they’re much harder to ignore and they can’t simply be told to pipe down.
There is one other hope that I should mention, however. And that’s the ECB’s own incompetence. Check out this little nugget from Mitchell’s statement:
“The likes of Root and Stokes will be allocated to a team for marketing purposes, but they won’t be playing. The ECB made the point that this new audience won’t necessarily know who Stokes and Root are anyway”.
With logic like this there’s every chance that the ECB will end up defeating itself. Perhaps we should just lie back, watch the suits tie themselves up in knots, and enjoy the show as the whole sorry idea collapses on its arse.
Unfortunately, however, English cricket cannot afford for this event to fail. The stakes are simply too high. So help us Obi Wan Daryl, you’re our only hope. Someone inside cricket has to restore a little sanity somewhere along the line.