Amid the blaring music, cheering crowd, whooshing flame burners, cricketers in multi-coloured jerseys will walk on the red carpet onto the cricket field to feature in what is going to be the ‘summer’s blockbuster sporting event’ in England — The Hundred.
At the same time, miles away, in the sleepy towns and quiet venues, some other cricketers wearing whites will play for days, taking their lunch and tea on time. With the chirps from treetops and eternal silence, the age-old County Cricket will go on.
After a year’s delay due to the raging pandemic, the 100-ball franchise tournament, starting this July 21, will be played for a month across seven English cities featuring eight men and women teams. A maximum of three overseas players will be allowed in a 15-player squad.
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s goal is to woo a new audience, generate money and finish a match in two and a half hours. ‘All are welcome’, says the official website.
When there already exist too many rules, too many innovations, too many formats and too much cricket, by introducing a new format aren’t we biting more than what we can chew?
One will not see the good old cricket terms being used in this tournament! It is nothing but a systematic eradication. The introduction of new rules and terminology will only create confusion. ‘Wickets’ will be called ‘outs’, the ‘third man’ fielding position is renamed as ‘well’, batsman will no longer be the same, they are ‘batters’ and the length of an over can be of minimum of five balls and maximum of ten balls. There is more: Change of ends after ten balls, sigh!
Imagine school going kids saying, the score is ’15 for two outs’. Why will they watch Test cricket or for that matter any other cricket? What is the guarantee that they will use the old terminology?
While many fans fear that this short version will kill the character of the game, its success too will be determined by their response. However, the more it happens the more it will hinder the growth of the longest format. Not exaggerating, if Test matches last four days now, courtesy the T20 leagues, in the future, it may well end in three-days. We can then thank The Hundred.
The Hundred won’t take away the Test crowd, for it has already been by the T20 leagues, but it will sap the one-day and T20 crowds. One should not be surprised if people will start feeling that if a fifty over match takes over six hours, a twenty over match takes more than three hours, it is better to watch two and a half hours of a hundred-ball match.
While the two formats (ODIs and T20I) acted like extensions to an old building (Test cricket), this new format, The Hundred, is like a separate structure in front of it. Not at all matching in design and architecture.
Even as the decision-makers are busy decorating this new structure, they should not forget that the old building needs a little care.
Gone are the days of long luncheons and tea breaks. Here’s something for The Hundred fans that can make them laugh: Earlier, Test match was a six-day event with a rest day in between. Hahaha!