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The Hundred: A Crap Idea That Keeps Getting Crapper

If I told you today that the ECB’s new Hundred competition would involve ten overs of ten balls, all bowled from the same end, using florescent yellow balls, with only eight fielders allowed at any one time, you’d probably believe me. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous an idea may seem. Anything and everything is now believable because a host of equally ridiculous ideas have already been proposed seriously.

How is one supposed to know the difference between a piss-take and reality anymore?

To say the ECB have bungled their new franchise T20, I mean Hundred, I mean T20 with shorter overs thingy, has been nothing short of an embarrassment. When they launched the Hundred concept I argued it probably had very little to do with innovation and everything to do with appearing to be innovative. I claimed the ECB were obsessed with looking funky and modern, and they didn’t really care about anything else. In essence, the Hundred was just a vanity project.

With each passing day I’m more and more convinced that I was right. How else does one explain the absurd depths the ECB are plumbing in order to ‘differentiate’ their competition from the IPL (and other tournaments they’re plainly jealous of)?

The original idea behind franchise cricket in the UK was ostensibly to ‘re-invigorate the game’ (a cynical code for ‘making money’ in my view), however I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the actual motivation was simply get one over the IPL and earn ‘great innovator’ tags for the competition’s architects. In other words, it’s about ego.

At first we heard that The Hundred would consist of fifteen six-ball overs with one ten-ball over – a product, I imagine, of a marketing bod in a boardroom (who knows very little about cricket) saying “the number 100 is pretty sexy, and it sounds catchier than T20, so let’s just do that”. I imagine everyone in the room went “yeahhhh love it”, until one spoilsport at the back of the room said “but the number 100 isn’t divisible by six”.

Having seen the public reaction, and perhaps more importantly to the ECB the reaction of the PCA, the meeting has now reconvened to resolve this apparent mathematical paradox. After much umming and ahhing the great minds have belated discovered that 100 is divisible by 5. So their solution is to bowl 20 five-ball overs instead. Genius! Job done!

The problem, of course, is that the ECB and their marketing consultants are the only people in the entire world who can’t see that their baby is a bastard. In fact, it’s a full on botchling. The more they try to look innovative the more they look like desperate clowns fumbling in the dark. Changing ends every five balls is just going to make the game seem more fragmented to the uninitiated.

The latest reports are that the Hundred will further try to ‘differentiate’ (code for further try to ‘be funky’) by enabling teams to pick 12 players, even though cricket as a sport has only involved XI players for generations. The ‘idea’ (code for shit proposal’) is for squads to have a specialist batsman or bowler who doesn’t have to field. This player then becomes a kind of designated hitter – much like they have in baseball, apparently.

One suspects this idea occurred randomly when Tom Harrison and Ed Smith, who is reportedly as big a student of baseball as he is a fan of The Economist, bumped into each other in a cocktail bar. They obviously forgot that the ICC tried something similar (the ODI super subs) in the noughties and it failed miserably. Only the ECB could revive something that made no sense whatsoever and was soon retracted.

So where, exactly, does The Hundred stand today? Let’s briefly recap:

It’s a tournament that targets people who don’t like cricket – in the forlorn hope that cutting the number of balls will make all the difference to these people – whilst alienating the sports traditional fanbase.

It’s a tournament that has been criticised by just about every single independent cricket writer, and people still don’t know exactly what the format will involve.

It’s a tournament that will overshadow and probably jeopardise the very successful and much loved T20 Blast.

And yet, despite all of the above, the ECB are prepared to invest millions and risk the very future of the sport unnecessarily to implement it. The mind boggles.

The fact ‘The Hundred’ concept was launched (badly) before the ECB even knew exactly what it would entail tells me everything I need to know. The important thing was seemingly to introduce something new, something that was different, something that made a bunch of ageing men frequently portrayed as elitist stick-in-the-muds appear as great innovators. I suspect this was the prority and they didn’t particularly care about the fine details.

One can imagine how that initial meeting wrapped up now:

“Well done gents. This is going to make us look really clever and our bank balance really healthy”.

“But what about the fine details, you know, the stuff we need to think through to make this work?”

“Think? Think? We don’t need to do that. It’s what we pay our marketing consultants, the guys who know nothing about our idiosyncratic sport, to do”.

And that’s why we’re in this mess. It’s amazing to think that the counties were coerced into this bollocks. After all the arm twisting, and all the money spent, the ECB didn’t even have a plan. How. Bloody. Typical.

James Morgan

 

2018-07-25T09:36:31+00:00 July 25th, 2018|Talking Points|36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Hungerpang July 25, 2018 at 9:59 am - Reply

    You might be looking James, but I’m afraid I can’t bear to…

  2. Colin Kerr July 25, 2018 at 9:59 am - Reply

    There’s life in the ECB, but not as we know it…..

  3. James July 25, 2018 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Maybe the ECB is on a secret mission to prove someone in the UK can come up with something more idiotic than Brexit?

  4. Dave July 25, 2018 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Just remember, when it fails miserably, it will be our fault – the existing cricket fans who this isn’t aimed at – for refusing to get behind it.

  5. jennyah46 July 25, 2018 at 10:09 am - Reply

    You are absolutely right James. What a nightmare of current thinking by the ECB. Somebody help us.

  6. AB July 25, 2018 at 10:14 am - Reply

    The hundred and Brexit have so much in common. Truly terrible ideas that those responsible for are willing to push through, despite knowing that there will be disastrous consequences for the very people they are supposed to be protecting, because the alternative of admitting a past mistake is unpalatable and would involve a loss of face.

  7. Keithjb July 25, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Unbelievable.
    For goodness sake could somebody please get rid of these idiots-Graves, Harrison and Strauss as well as the marketing bloke.
    Until this happens, this ridiculous concept will continue to be made more and more stupid and will get rid of the ECB reserves.

  8. Smylers July 25, 2018 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Also in the ‘where does The Hundred stand today’ list: it will mean the end of the Kia Super League, the only women’s English 20-over tournament — leaving the England women cricket team without any domestic cricket in the format they play most internationally! (And are the reigning world champions in.)

    • James Morgan July 25, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

      Bloody good point. I should have mentioned that.

    • Richard Clark July 25, 2018 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Agree whole-heartedly, although England aren’t the reigning World T20 Champions, West Indies are.

  9. Nick July 25, 2018 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Its an easy target for jokes but I have zoned out of The100 now, its clear nothing is set in stone so jumping on every rumor is a recipe for unhappiness.

    The ECB spent years visiting other countries learning the secrets and don’t seem to have taken the message that visibility is key, eight FTA games is not enough to build a narrative. If the ECB can’t get current live cricket watchers back onside the product will look awful played to empty looking grounds.

    Some form of competition will begin in 2020 because broadcasters have paid for it

    • Simon H July 25, 2018 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      “empty looking grounds”.

      No problem – just control the cameras (lots of tight angles!) and then claim all the tickets were sold even if everyone’s eyes are telling them that there are empty seats.

      It’s what they’ve been doing for years.

      • Richard Clark July 25, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

        To be fair, this applies to a lot of sporting events, where empty seats can be found in areas allocated to sponsors and “guests”, many of which aren’t taken up. It happened at Lord’s with the WWC Final last year. All seats on sale to the public were filled, but sponsors areas weren’t. Empty seats in the MCC Members areas (A uniquely Lord’s situation) exacerbated that too.

  10. AB July 25, 2018 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Its easy to blame the marketing bods, but no competent marketing company would have advised any of this. I think this has all been decided with almost zero outside involvement by a small number of senior ECB execs who genuinely believe that they’re geniuses, but are actually complete morons. Its the kind of thing David Brent would come up with.

    • James Morgan July 25, 2018 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Hi AB. The ECB actually appointed an T20 Board to discuss all this. The contents of the job description was leaked to me by someone with the MCC. These people had plenty of general business experience (and one assumes marketing knowledge) but none of them were cricket people. My guess is these people applied very broad knowledge of launching things to cricket, without really appreciating the idiosyncrasies of our sport and its fanbase. Just my 2p.

      • AB July 27, 2018 at 11:21 am - Reply

        New T20 Board

        Colin Graves – Chairman of ECB

        Sanjeev Gandhi – Partner & Co-Founder, Mitchell Gandhi*

        Norman Gascoigne – Chairman, Warwickshire County Cricket Club

        Sahar Hashemi – Entrepreneur (co-founder of Coffee Republic & Skinny Candy)*

        Ron Kalifa – Vice Chairman & former CEO of WorldPay*

        Mike McCormack – MD, Universal Music Publishing Group*

        Sanjay Patel – ECB Chief Commercial Officer & Managing Director, New T20

        Caroline Rowland – Founder of New Moon and Senior Level Strategist*

        Scott Smith – ECB Chief Financial Officer

        Gavin Warren – Chairman, Northamptonshire County Cricket Club

        Suzi Williams – Strategic & commercial leader in brand-led consumer & media*

        • AB July 27, 2018 at 11:30 am - Reply

          Aren’t these the list of characters from W1A? A “commercial leader in brand-led consumer and media”? That doesn’t even make sense as a description, there’s a noun missing somewhere

          A bigger group of posh eejits and know-nothing chancers you couldn’t wish to construct. Sanjay Patel is from Heineken incidentally, a bland product that loses significant market share each year. Sums him up.

          One of the questions this raises is why are chairmen of county cricket boards so often ex-bankers. WTF do bankers know about running a professional cricket club?

          I see Steve Denison, who was chairman at Yorkshire had to be removed at short notice when it turned out he had been involved in some very, very dodgy dealings. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same was true of a majority the county chairmen.

  11. Andrew Cheese July 25, 2018 at 10:42 am - Reply

    I don’t get it. If the ECB want something that will appeal to everybody but the T20 format is too long then there is the T10 standard – just go for that. Why invent something new. IMHO the key is marketing, not the format. Back in the day, we had the John Player Special league and that was popular. Learn from this and have the games on Sundays.

  12. Barry Turner July 25, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I wrote in these very pages that the decision to change from T20 to 100 balls was taken in just three weeks by a committee largely made up of digital-type entrepreneurs.These people believe in disruption, that is a shake up of traditional industry by a new business model. Can’t say i am against that but this seems to be a brainstorming meeting where everything nutty discussed is pushed into the public arena. It’s baffling and worrying that no one seems to be in charge of this runaway circus.

  13. Doug M July 25, 2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately the counties cannot now vote these buggers out because of changes they approved a while back. Short of taking them out with a hit squad there is no legal way to remove these morons. If it fails, as it probably will, all cricket will take a huge financial hit. It may be worth it in the long term though. Shame on the counties who took the ECB’ s blood money. Hope the cheques bounce.

    • Giles Falconer July 25, 2018 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      Most counties who disliked the ideas the ECB were peddling were (rightly, in my opinion) fearful about what would happen to them if they stuck their head above the parapet… What happened to Durham (for a different reason) suggests they were right to be worried.

  14. oreston July 25, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    If you think it’s bad right now things might get worse next month while the media’s attention is absorbed by whatever happens in the India test series and Ben Stokes’ trial. The ECB could potentially have a number of good days to bury bad news (…or batshit crazy ideas that they want to sneak in without proper scrutiny).

  15. Simon H July 25, 2018 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Not much to add about The Hundred – but the creep of Brexit comments on here is becoming a bit of a pain. Is this now a political blog?

    By the way, for anyone who hasn’t noticed yet, it’s the EU who are trying to destroy blogs like this through Article 13. It’s been delayed by an EP vote but they’re coming back to it in September. One might think this would give supporters of blogs reason to pause about whether everyone who supports Brexit is a certified loon and the EU is quite so wonderful but apparently not.

    • oreston July 25, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      In places such as this I think Brexit is a subject best avoided altogether – whichever side of the argument you’re on. While it may be possible to draw parallels between the current political turmoil and what’s happening within cricket, the problem is that both Brexiteers and Remainers can do so – each camp perceiving a set of similarities that correlates with their own position and agenda. Being pro-Brexit doesn’t necessarily make you pro-ECB anymore than being pro-Remain makes you part of the Star Wars Rebel Alliance. So making pro/anti Brexit comments just risks unnecessary friction and division within the community that James and his fellow posters’ blogging efforts has made possible. Let’s avoid politics and concentrate on those things that unite us… Or failing that, just on cricket ?

  16. Nigel July 25, 2018 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Yu can tell quite how bad things are when Matthew Engel is driven to bad language:
    “that hotbed of fuckwittery, the England and Wales Cricket Board offices at Lord’s….”
    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jul/25/domestic-game-under-threat-lords-leaps-wretched-conclusion

    He also makes the good point that shoehorning this ill conceived mess into a single period of just over a month risks an entire season being written off by the weather…

    • Simon H July 26, 2018 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Agreed – the point about Nokia particularly tickled me. (Boeing would be another example, they started as a timber company). I haven’t always agreed with Engel recently but he hits the bullseye here. Again, there’s the great mystery of why there was not one single article like this in the English press when Giles Clarke was ECB boss.

      Someone at the Guardian’s obviously pretty nervous about it as they haven’t opened it to comments. This is only a couple of days after the Guardian published a lickspittle apologia for the ECB saying that of course those splendid chaps hadn’t discussed 15-a-side etc

  17. Gav July 25, 2018 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    good grief, when will it end? Why is our national game ran by such an incredibly incompetent set of muppets as this lot?

    I remember several times reading in the comments on this blog from aussies and saffers and the rest about how much we moan about the ECB – do you lot understand now???!

  18. Marc Evans July 25, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    I hope the ‘very successful and much loved’ reference to the T20 Blast is laced with irony.
    Cricket has been mucked about with ever since it came on the scene as successsive gimmicks have sought to attract more support, sponsorship and generally raise the profile of our beleaguered game.
    Are you really suggesting James that this latest hijack will have any lasting effect once the novelty has gone.
    As I understand it the Hundred is an experiment at present, with nothing set in stone. Once this season is over it’s rules will be analysed and yet another rethink produced. At present it seems pretty inconsequential to me, just an ongoing project, a whim of a bunch of self seeking inadequates.

  19. Douglas Minde July 25, 2018 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Agree about bloody Brexit. Its nasty head creeps in everywhere, even on cricket blogs. Life will go on Brexit or not. Forget it.

    • Marc Evans July 26, 2018 at 1:36 am - Reply

      I know the whole Brexit thing has become tedious and confused, but do you really want to be hidebound by a bunch of self interested egotists in some ivory tower who don’t give a monkeys about our interests, rather like the ECB marketeers and fans of proper unrestricted cricket, Life will not go on for the best if the silent majority do not make themselves heard, in either politics or sport. We have to stand up to the largely unelected bully boys who set themselves up as the arbiters of what’s best for us all, without us having a say. They count on this apathy to continue playing their self seeking games.
      Surely it’s obvious to anyone watching the interminable Brexit escapades in Europe that there are still too many political divisions to allow a rational economic unit to emerge. Piss up and brewery comes to mind.

      • oreston July 26, 2018 at 4:56 pm - Reply

        You just couldn’t help yourself, could you? And therein lies the problem. Sure, exercise your right to freedom of expression (which is absolutely vital for an open society and a functioning democracy) but there are some equally important behaviours you should considerer deploying while doing so. These include exercising self restraint and taking responsibility for the impact of your own words and actions.
        Go on, turn this into a politics blog (not that James would, I’m sure, be happy to allow that to happen). Watch it blow up and see how long it lasts. There are many, many more appropriate places online to discuss Brexit – or would be but for the unfortunate reality that people don’t tend to “discuss” it so much as argue and fall out over it. That’s what makes it a poisonous topic. I’m not for one second saying “don’t take a position on it.” That would be next to impossible. I’m simply saying don’t allow this contagion of a topic to spread to places (such as this) where it has no business going and can go only do needless harm.

  20. Comte July 26, 2018 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Not just bollocks – this is complete bollocks.

  21. Growltiger July 26, 2018 at 7:10 am - Reply

    The only way to make sense of all this is that the whole idea is just a spoiler for something that is much more sensible than it, but would have been regarded as insane if they had come out with it in one go. It is like the car industry “dirtying up” exhaust emissions so that passing new stricter tests will be just a matter of reverting to normal. I expect it will be 15 7 ball overs with 11 player teams of mixed sex. Or something like that. And we all heave a sigh of relief.

  22. Lolly July 26, 2018 at 11:11 am - Reply

    It feels redundant. How much difference can 20 balls make?

  23. Bob Bayliss July 26, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Remember “Hundred means hundred”…..nothing has changed, nothing has changed.

  24. James August 1, 2018 at 9:50 am - Reply

    This from the Cricinfo commentary on the build up to the first test. As metaphors go, this is a belter.

    “Right, Dobell tells me a presentation was being made to Colin Graves for England’s 1000th Test…but he has dropped the trophy…it’s broken in two…”

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