I am sure I am not on my own in learning about cricket at my grandfather’s knee and batting against my dad in the back yard, the dustbin a make do, oversized wicket whilst my brother reclaimed errant balls from neighbours’ gardens.
As I grew up I helped with my nephews and cousins cricket education, bowling and battling in equal measure. I am now schooling my own daughter in the finer art of cricket, defending my wicket against her sometimes-unplayable medium pace.
Cricket is handed down; cricket is tradition, whenever and wherever in the world it is played. Isn’t it?
Perhaps not anymore. A professional franchise called The Hundred is set to launch a new 100-ball cricket tournament involving eight men’s and eight women’s teams located in major cities across England and Wales. The tournament will be run by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and will take place for the first time in the summer of 2021, having been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament is intended to give equal weight to both men’s and women’s sides, with almost all the matches taking place as back-to-back double-headers at the same venue on the same day, with one ticket giving access to both the men’s and women’s games.
For traditionalists like me it feels like the language of cricket is being ‘dumbed down’ to facilitate the new tournament. The term ‘wicket’ is on its way to the pavilion and replaced by the baseball term, ‘out’. There will no longer be ‘over’ either, instead the bowling will be described as the number of balls remaining.
So, a team will no longer be described as 102 for three from 10 overs. Instead, it will be 102 runs from 60 balls for three outs.
The format of the game is, each team face 100 balls per innings, with a change of ends after 10 balls. Bowlers can deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls but are limited to a maximum of 20 balls per game. Each bowling side gets a strategic time-out of up to two and a half minutes. Each team will get a 25-ball powerplay with two fielders allowed outside the initial 30-yard circle during the powerplay.
Reaction to the new format has been mixed. There was widespread criticism from cricket fans on social media who believe the change in vocabulary was turning the game into something more akin to rounders or baseball. An online poll showed that more than 82 per cent of respondents were not in favour of The Hundred.
Indian cricket captain, Virat Kohli, voiced his concerns about what he views as the commercialisation of cricket and was not entirely in favour of the new format.
Former England cricketer, Vic Marks, wrote a scathing review of the idea, accusing the ECB of putting the broadcasters first. He said: “It seems the ECB will do anything to satisfy the whims of the broadcasters, and this includes introducing yet another format of the game, which is already overloaded with matches of so many different durations. And it has the gall to call this a simplification”.
On the other side of the coin some current players have been positive about The Hundred. England’s current Test captain, Joe Root, welcomed the ECB’s plans, believing it would attract a completely new audience. Former T20 captain Stuart Broad said he was hugely optimistic about the new format.
The eight teams for the 2021 season have been announced, they are -Birmingham Phoenix, London Spirit, Manchester Originals, Oval Invincibles, Southern Brave, Trent Rockets, Welsh Fire and Yorkshire’s very own Northern Superchargers. The Superchargers will be based at Headingly in Leeds.
Each squad will be made up of 15 players with a maximum of three overseas players. The first games of the 2021 season are between the Oval Invincibles and the Manchester Originals. The women’s game will be played on 21st July and the mens game taking place on the following day.
For traditionalist like myself it may take a little while to adjust to the new game, I think I will still be describing the game in terms of wickets and six ball overs to my grandchildren. But if it brings new fans to cricket it cannot be all bad, so I won’t call stumps on the idea just yet.