Many cricket fans found the men’s tournament difficult to get into. The Grade Cricketer says the Big Bash is just on, and you have it in the background in the evening but never pay attention to it cus it’s just colours and sounds. That’s how the men’s Hundred feels to me. I find myself having it on in the background while I scroll through my phone, only looking up when I hear a ball getting whacked into the stands. I quickly think “that was big” and then look away.
But here’s the thing, I really like the women’s tournament. And it appears to be having much more of a positive effect than the men’s. I think there are few reasons for this…
Firstly, learning more about the women’s game is great because it still feels like a new thing to many fans. I’ve watched a lot of women’s international cricket since the 2017 World Cup Final so I know the players in their national teams and how they match up. Now the Hundred allows viewers to see who the up-and-coming domestic players are.
Though the women’s players have counties, Charlotte Edwards Cup teams and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy franchises, these tournaments aren’t broadcasted as widely as the Hundred. This means most fans associate a female cricketer with their Hundred side instead of their county. What’s more, the Charlotte Edwards Cup and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy franchises locations line up really well with the Hundred ones, so fans can have a continual allegiance. And there’s not an insignificant amount of continuity between the squads.
I think this is why the women’s Hundred appears to be working more than the men’s. You have a team to associate yourself with because there is almost no prior allegiance with another side. This is not the case for the men.
There are no stories or rivalries in the men’s Hundred because the English players have counties and the overseas players change franchises each season. You can’t associate yourself with a franchise.
This was partly done by design. The ECB announced that the franchises’ names, colours and logos would be designed so they didn’t have connections to existing sports teams in each area. Fans have to build up a rapport with the franchise in their area, which is difficult when you already support a team.
It would be like supporting Chelsea but for one month of the year, you can only watch London Town who play in red and have a couple Chelsea players and then loads from Spurs, Man U, Liverpool and Leicester.
Strangely, the Oval Invincibles seem to have avoided this: their jersey is basically identical to Surrey’s. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Surrey was the only county to vote against the Hundred and had to be convinced by the ECB.
They have also managed to pick many Surrey players. Roy, Jacks, the Currans and Topley are all senior players in the Surrey T20 side and Narine is their overseas. Their other players, like Cox and Billings, are from Kent and, especially Billings, already have close friendships with the Surrey players through England. Their fans have continuity between their county and Hundred sides. It will be very interesting to see if this continues, or spreads. The Trent Rockets have also secured large proportions of the Nottinghamshire squad.
The difference in success between the two tournaments creates a major issue for the ECB. The double headers have been instrumental in raising the status of women’s cricket in England as the crowd for the women’s match is bolstered by the men’s game crowd. This means more fans see women’s cricket and start following it, bringing money into the game. Given the dominance of the Australian Women’s side at the moment, they are probably the greatest international cricket side ever, this is vital.
The ECB can’t afford to cut the men’s Hundred if it is faltering because of its impact on the women’s. So it probably means their only option is to throw even more money at it hoping that tides will change. Ultimately the tournament’s issues are fundamental and money won’t fix them. But unfortunately, they cannot afford to lose on the Hundred.
There’s the nub. No county assisciation for the women. You can’t have players playing for different teams and expect to get supporters anything other than frustrated. Where do allegiances lie? The very thing that stops the mens Hundred from attracting the public attention hoped for becomes a boon for the women, although many punters are still leaving before the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’. The fact remains that the women’s game here is presently at the standard of good club cricket. Even in footie the women professionals are being well beaten by their club’s male apprentices in pre-season friendlies, which of course the media is not reporting, so there’s a way to go yet despite all the hype.
The Hundred attendances have been less than impressive despite the dry and warm evenings and TV camera angles are limited for boundary shots lest the empty seats are exposed. The Hundred is clearly riding on the back of the county game, another dose of freedom without responsibility.
The ECB’s solution will be to scrap the counties and then annihilate their memory. See how they’ve done the latter to the Test team pre-Sky (or even really pre-Strauss – they don’t even really treasure the 2005 Ashes).
Women’s cricket is inferior, if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be separate teams. Good luck to anyone who wants to watch an inferior product.
The women had their own reasonably successful T20 competition in the Kia Trophy. At a fraction of the cost of the 100, this could have been revamped Women’s Blast and played as a double header with the men’s competition in the holidays at 18 grounds instead of 8. Surely this would have been far preferable to spending, I understand some £50m, on this 100 rubbish and splitting the game?
oh yes it’s seriously fractured, but of course the ECB loathe the County Game so the 100 went forward as a Harrison vanity project, a sort of crickets HS2 if you like. Even the Ashes has to be moved next year to accommodate this garbage. Thomas is right ,in that the Mens 100 can’t fail, but not to simply protect the Women’s Game, but the ECB from potential bankruptcy. I do hope Richard Thompson can bring this wretched organisation into line and to actually do what a sports Governing Body should be doing because as it is it is simply not fit for purpose. The ECB needs a Performance Review by an outside body, not cricket itself. If he can’t, I expect in the not too distant future some sort of coup, and a breakaway organisation set up, before cricket as we love it disappears into some sort of McDonald’s fast food shit show.
“to actually do what a sports Governing Body should be doing because as it is it is simply not fit for purpose.”
What a sport’s governing body is meant to do is bring it into line with the bankers’ plans for the world. The ECB are doing a top job by that standard, unsurprisingly because cricket is more in bed with the financial elite than most other sports.
View things through that prism and much that appears otherwise strange suddenly makes sense.
A governing body is supposed to protect, develop, and support the integrity of the game. I’m not sure if your point above is a sarcasm, I think it is, but the ECB fails in every departmemt. And what’s worse is that they don’t even care.
The graphics are hideous. The game is hideous. There’s no beauty in this ‘cricket’. It is what is missing. Cricket was once the original Beautiful Game so described in the 1930s and the name stuck until football stole it. It is ironic that football is now complex and intriguing full of patterns and admired shapes. While cricket in The Hundred has been reduced to batting like slogans and the commentary is crass. The music and sounds likewise. The hyperbole likewise. What we see is cricket reduced to ugliness which reflects the mindset of the people who created it out of thin air. Thin being the operative word. It is a tragedy. The aspirations are so low. Create a market. Make money. Sell the franchises. Make money. Job done. Cricket fans are not buying it. And they need to stand up and fight for their sport. The Hundred is not the future, it’s a Dead End. If the women’s game needs more attention start promoting it. Start expanding it. The Hundred is the worst possible advert for cricket. Is this cricket? Our beloved beautiful Game? This is the country where the game has been cherished and nourished for centuries. Where cricket fans still prefer Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport. If we fail to save our game then we are failing future generations as well as our forebears. They depend on us to pass on the game in good order, and that means cricket in all its glory, its intricacies, language and breathtaking stroke play against the strategy of captains and inspiring bowlers. How fine it would be if cricket really was promoted as once described by Jardine: “Cricket is battle and service and sport and art.”
Beautifully written Jackie, I wish I could articulate my feelings as well as you can. Agree with every word you say.
Absolutely spot on. Some passion here.
I’m hopelessly conflicted on this. There doesn’t seem to be the same aversion to players playing for different teams in Australia (e.g NSW in the Sheffield Shield and Perth in the BBL). Although equally they’ve just picked Tim David in their World Cup squad who has never held a state contract. I guess we’ll see what the response to the same in South Africa is in the winter.
I agree that test cricket is (or should be) the pinnacle of the game but I was chatting with some people the other day – if you are a kid growing up now with an interest in the game are you going to prioritise a sound defensive technique or being able to clear the rope at will? Depressing as it may be I think everyone knows the answer. As was pointed out recently Kieron Pollard is a multi millionaire because he can consistently score 30 off 11 balls.
I may be in a minority (on this site) in that I quite enjoy the hundred and having been to both the blast and hundred finals days I preferred the hundred version. Full disclosure though in that my interest in Essex has declined over the 20 odd years since I moved away and now home county (Berkshire) is not first class.
I think your last point is interesting here – I live in Scotland (having grown up in Cumbria) so I’ve never had a FC county to properly support. I have an affinity with Durham and been to watch them a few times.
But as a result I haven’t found it as jarring to follow teams in the Hundred – it hasn’t been the Chelsea/London scenario outlined in the article. I wonder how many people might be similar. If you like cricket (e.g. follow England) but have never really followed a county maybe it’s easier to latch onto one of the Hundred Teams. This tournament I’ve found myself rooting for the Originals and for the Superchargers, maybe out of a vague sense of Northern pride. Although at the same time I haven’t exactly been gutted when they’ve lost.
In fairness to The Hundred, it is only in its second year. I enjoyed parts of the competition but agree that it has its shortcomings.
Hopefully next year’s competitions for both men and women will be bigger and better.
Hopefully it won’t exist next year. Sorry but anyone who supports this abomination is contributing to the destruction of the game. And Jackie above puts this better than me.
The Hundred is absolutely atrocious, it doesn’t matter if it’s men or women are playing because the standards of cricket is so low that i am starting to lose interest now.