After two years of delays, uncertainty and setbacks amidst a global pandemic, The Hundred finally got off the blocks on July 21. The women from Manchester Originals and Oval Invincibles put on a show for the world to see in the opening match of the much anticipated league. Cricket’s newest format had polarising reactions from world cricket even before the first ball was bowled. A vast number of angry Test cricket purists went as far as terming The Hundred ‘the death of cricket’ and ‘a format that’s destined to be flopped.’ A week into the tournament, it’s safe to say that The Hundred is here to stay.
The Hundred took off! It made a first impression that forced the world to take notice. From bright cheerful colours to jerseys to graphics to music, The Hundred hit all the right notes to attract the audience. And this is only the off-field part. The actual play has been outstanding to keep the interest of the fans going.
For a country where people aren’t as mad for cricket as the subcontinent countries, the ECB needed to produce something different than just another T20 league. And they did! The novelty of the 100-ball format is the biggest selling point of The Hundred. It sets this league apart. The fast paced action of the matches makes sure the viewers won’t have to invest too much time. Apart from drawing newer audiences to the game, the league could have an enormous impact in English cricket and possibly in world cricket.
More exposure for women’s cricket
Women’s cricket could be the biggest beneficiary of the league. We have seen what having a full-fledged T20 tournament can do in a demographic, with Australian women’s cricket flourishing even more on the back of Women’s Big Bash League. Now the ECB still has a long way to go in matching what Cricket Australia has done for the women’s game but it’s a start. The opening match of The Hundred between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals clocked 1.6m peak audience on BBC. The Lord’s fixture between Heather Knight’s London Spirit and Dane van Niekerk’s Oval Invincibles set the largest attendance record of 13537 for a women’s domestic match.
The same fixture also became the first ever match at Lord’s in women’s domestic cricket. The fact that it has taken this long is frankly embarrassing but we’ll look at the positive side. With The Hundred, women’s cricket is being played at the major venues in the UK which is great for the game. The 16-year-old Alice Capsey putting on a show in front of the packed Lord’s cricket ground or India’s Jemimah Rodrigues winning over the English crowd with her back to back classy fifties is great for the game. Women’s arena getting exposure on this level is vital for its growth. And perhaps a couple of years down the line, we will see the women’s competition getting its own window.
The Superstars in making
Let’s talk about the impact The Hundred could have on men’s cricket in England. England currently have a white ball depth that is enviable for most of the cricket countries except India. That depth was full on display recently as England’s third-string team swept Pakistan clean in the ODI series. With The Hundred, the youngsters will get an opportunity to showcase their talent to a much larger audience than they usually have at the Vitality Blast.
Take for example, Harry Brook. The 22-year-old Yorkshire batter amassed 485 runs in the 2021 Vitality Blast at an extraordinary average of 80 while striking at over 150. But not many had heard about him until he smashed 62 off 31 for Northern Superchargers. Brook single handedly kept the team in the game after losing big guns while chasing 174 in a run fest against Welsh Fire. The knock instantly puts him on the world map and opens doors for him in various leagues across the globe. Brook is just one example. There are plenty more potential superstars in English cricket that the overseas leagues would pay good bucks for.
Action-packed first week of The Hundred
A lot has already been written on the challenging tactical aspect of The Hundred so let’s not get there. Despite what some say, the quality of the league has been very good so far. Yes there have been a few dull matches but which league doesn’t, right? There have been some outrageous matches too – the most recent one being Trent Rockets Men vs Northern Superchargers Men. The match produced some high intense drama and action, culminating in the Trent Bridge crowd going berserk as Alex Hales belted David Willey’s delivery into the stands to take the home side over the line. Or the Welsh Fire Women vs Northern Superchargers Women, where Jemimah Rodrigues played a magnificent knock of 92 off 43 to chase down the target with five balls to spare. Or the Harry Brook match mentioned above. And it’s been only a week!
The fact that The Hundred has managed to have a rollicking start despite losing most of the overseas superstars ahead of the season should be enough to know what it’ll achieve in the coming years. Imagine the scenes with superstars like Meg Lanning, Andre Russell, David Warner, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Kieron Pollard playing in the league. It is only going to get bigger and better.
The city-based franchise league was absolutely the right idea. There is this school of thought that suggests the board could’ve just added all these gimmicks and glamour to the T20 Blast. No, the 18-team competition is near impossible to keep track of even for hardcore fans. The Hundred, on the other hand, is a lot more easy to follow for everyone. The loyalties might take some time to develop, just give it some time. A bit more fine-tuning and there’s no reason why The Hundred can’t thrive. You just have to be patient!