Free, to do What I want, Any Old Time.

The announcement about unlocking society yesterday has been timely for the ECB, given that today is the draft day for the Hundred. It is entirely unsurprising that the response from the majority of the commenting cricket fraternity has either been indifferent or negative, but that’s merely a reflection of the ongoing hostility to it, and also the abject failure of the ECB themselves to engage the support base over the last few years.

Where it gets more interesting is whether, in a sense, the ECB have fluked it in terms of the timing. If, as hoped, crowds return to sport this summer, then it just might be that their launch of this concept will work – in 2021 at least. The reasoning for that is simple enough, having been locked up for the best part of a year, there will be latent demand from the public to be out doing something – anything. The Hundred, with its reasonable pricing may well be able to tap into that desire, and the open air and generally spacious (except the seats) nature of cricket watching may attract even those who are nervous about being out and about among the general public.

Put aside views of the format of The Hundred for now, it doesn’t matter. Having something to do will matter, and given it’s summer before anyone can, it largely, if not entirely, bypasses other sports in the same period, and will have an earlier major event that crosses over in the liberalisation period with Euro 2020 taking place in June and July that ought to bring back some familiarity to the concept of going to sporting events.

Against that is the undoubted likely reduction in the numbers of people who are prepared to go anywhere this summer. Each time the pubs were re-opened there was an expectation of them being packed, and in city centres that may have been more the case, but elsewhere there was a clear reluctance from many to go out to public locations. What happens this summer in that general sense is an open question, but it’s probably true that the overall potential footprint is lower, while among those who do wish to partake, their incidence of making use of what is available may be higher.

There is also the economic aspect to this. Many people are dramatically worse off, through job losses, collapses in income or business, and they will not have spare cash to be able to splurge on summer events (in this area, the low price of the Hundred is in its favour), but on the other hand there is a smaller but still sizeable group who are much better off, due to working from home rather than commuting, and the loss of things to spend money on more generally. How much one group might outweigh the other is another unknown, but there is an opportunity for the ECB to promote the entire competition in a slightly different way to had it been a normal year.

None of this undoes the structural problems faced by the entire concept, nor the challenges it will have in future years. An initial frisson of excitement at something new lasts no time at all, but if nothing else, it provides a means of making a good start. For cricket generally, the pricing attraction versus a ticket cost in excess of £150 at Lord’s for an ODI is a clear point of difference, especially for a family, and it shouldn’t be underestimated how that vast difference will play to a group of people who are open to paying for public entertainment, but not to have to sell a kidney for the privilege of attending.

What it won’t do is justify the Hundred itself, although it’s not hard to imagine the PR crowing that will result from busy grounds. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t justified either, it would simply be that the special circumstances of 2021 mean it is impossible to draw wider conclusions about the wisdom or otherwise of the whole venture. But in itself, it has the prospect this year of generating interest and ticket sales. For the ECB and the counties hosting games, that will be enough for now, and with the women’s matches running in parallel at more grounds than the core, it could be wider in reach and scope than anticipated. Indeed, the impact of The Hundred on women’s cricket more generally is a wider topic for debate, but this year, it might just make a material difference.

This would undoubtedly create mixed emotions – the ECB receiving instant absolution for their actions over the last few years would go down badly with many, irrespective of the cost of failure of the launch. But perhaps even for those most implacably opposed, it could be seen as a necessary evil this year to give the game at least a fighting chance of generating cash. Where that takes us in years to follow, that’s a very different question.


38 thoughts on “Free, to do What I want, Any Old Time.

  1. Mark Feb 23, 2021 / 1:42 pm

    I didn’t wish for 20/20 to fail when it came out because the ECB made it clear it was a way of generating revenue which would run as a supplement to other forms of the game. (It’s success overwhelmed other forms of cricket and it became a monster.The ECB can’t be blamed for that. But they lost control of it.)

    Which begs the question why are they doing it again? Because they lost control of 20/20. If cricket is price sensitive then why don’t they drop the price of existing cricket? Many 50/50 matches don’t sell out these days.

    The ECB have made it clear this is for a completely new audience that don’t know they need it yet. Time will tell. I suspect it will be the same people who already go to 20/20 matches. But the ECB have made it very clear it’s not the existing fan. It’s for a new fan base. So why would people like me support it?


    • thelegglance Feb 23, 2021 / 1:49 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t really want to just repeat what is said in my last post, so concentrated on this summer and this summer only, where I do think it will be popular, despite itself.


  2. Marek Feb 23, 2021 / 9:59 pm

    I’m interested to see too, but I’m somewhat sceptical that it will work.

    Whatever the situation regarding lockdown, the don’t seem to me to have resolved the basic issue with attracting fans, namely that they’ve gone out of their way to alienate existing fans, which probably means they’ve destroyed most of what little interest there was there, but they haven’t got any idea who their replacements are.

    Essentially, they’re trying to sell something on pure hype–which I’m not convinced is how selling a sport works; I suspect it works in a far more organic way (parent gets child into game, mate at work enthuses about it, child happens to see it on TV). There’s no logical reason that a new fan would get into a sport which they’ve quite possibly never heard of and couldn’t name any of the supposedly famous players of, and which isn’t generally on TV. Tweaking the rules won’t make any difference to that: if you don’t like opera, you wouldn’t go to an opera, and the fact that the characters dress in trendy modern costumes and they cut 45 minutes off the running time still won’t make you go.

    I’m also not convinced that Coronavirus will make a difference. There are loads of things you could do once you’re allowed to mix and go to events: many of them don’t involve being outside but if you want to be outside, you could participate in a sport, go for a bike ride with your friends, go to a music festival (probably, albeit small and aranged rather last-minute), go to the mountains. Why would you go to a cricket match if you don’t follow cricket? After all, I won’t start watching competitive break-dancing just because I can.

    It rather reminds me of the ICC’s big drive to expand cricket into its great target market of China…which, entirely predictably, fell flat because it was so artificial and not organic. Instead, they got Afghanistan and (to a lesser extent) Oman and Nepal because the process was organic. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised (and of course I’d be laughing my socks off!) to see the Oval (sorry, the Kia Oval) half-empty and Scarborough, Chelmsford and Taunton doing quite nicely thank you for the 50-50, patronised by cricket fans who really have missed cricket.


    • dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 4:37 am

      The Hundred: Come to laugh your socks off, you will have no idea what anyone in the ‘theatre’ is doing. And judging by our exemplary management, neither do we! We’re just letting the creatives do their thing. Watch from 100 yards away!

      Somehow I don’t think that will really work. And with some of the venues, you are basically driving to the middle of nowhere, have horrible parking experience (if it is a success), so might as well go for other things to do out in the open.

      This could flop in unimaginable ways. If they invested in the camera work for the meta perspective it might even drive popcorn sales up.


  3. dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 9:33 am

    It looks like a great stadium though I am not a fan of the name change.


    • Miami Dad's Six Feb 24, 2021 / 2:41 pm

      I always found the “Colonel Gaddafi Stadium” in Lahore a bit cringeworthy – but at least that was to another nation’s leader.

      What do I know about Modi? Not a lot, but this does strike me as a bit, I dunno, Pyongyang. Imagine renaming Wembley the Boris Johnson Stadium. Actually, p’raps it’s best not to give anyone any ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Feb 24, 2021 / 2:42 pm

        As I understand it, the name change story has been denied.


  4. dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 9:39 am

    Seriously shit review by Bairstow.


    • Miami Dad's Six Feb 24, 2021 / 10:21 am

      It’s the pitfall of having 3 reviews, one of the top 3 batsmen feels less guilty about rinsing one when he must know in his head that it’s never getting overturned.

      I don’t think Bairstow is a good number 3 for England – but I do feel for him, having done pretty well there in tricky conditions in SL, that he was then flobbed off home, then brought back again, and expected to be completely on the money again.


      • dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 10:30 am

        Given how little cricket he has played since the SL tour, it was a bit unfair asking him to bat at number 3. I suppose that is modern cricket, though.


      • Mark Feb 24, 2021 / 11:16 am

        Ed Smith gave us a lecture about the invention of aeroplanes, and how players would be flown in and out of series. Perhaps he should learn the concept of being in form. To just fly in with no practice in the conditions is going to create a high chance of failure.

        Not saying it’s impossible, but the percentage likelihood of failure is higher. Not good for the team, and not fair on the individual player. Perhaps he will make a 100 second innings???


        • dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 12:54 pm

          I’ll be happy if the team make a 100 in the second innings.


  5. dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 10:00 am

    Bit of variable bounce for the quicks and Axar getting big turn all ready. It may not be a long test but it will be fun to watch.


  6. Miami Dad's Six Feb 24, 2021 / 10:15 am

    By the permed mullet of Poseidon, Graeme Swann is irritating.


    • dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 10:32 am

      Its the first time I have heard Swann commentate. He’s not as bad as I thought he would be but it is early in the day

      Crawley looks quite good.


  7. man in a barrel Feb 24, 2021 / 10:35 am

    Lucky to survive that lbw against Ashwin! One of the dodgiest umpire’s calls I’ve seen for a while


    • man in a barrel Feb 24, 2021 / 10:43 am

      Whereas I thought Root was plumb and it’s another umpire’s call


  8. dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 11:33 am

    Me: England were a bity shit in the second test
    England: Hold my beer.

    At least Jimmy will get to bowl under lights.


  9. Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 11:40 am

    Ah, we’ve entered the universe where Archer is still a more solid test batsman than Leach…..


  10. dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 11:43 am

    The lights are the big question now, but no one would have hoped for 87/6 here on Day 1.

    Foakes has to provide a massive rescue act here.


  11. Miami Dad's Six Feb 24, 2021 / 11:57 am

    England have quite ballsed this up. Winning the toss, the opening batsman getting 50, followed by a pretty epic collapse. Lots of changes to the batting order; 95-7.

    Then we look at the bowling line up. 4 seamers /1 spinner; to India’s 2 seamers / 3 spin options. I know it’s a “pink ball day-night Test” – but it feels a bit like this team selection was made before the tour began – surely after the second Test you might perhaps read the room.

    Let’s hope it bloody swings in the 3rd session today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miami Dad's Six Feb 24, 2021 / 2:51 pm

      12 overs in, England have already bowled more seam than India did in the entire innings. Again, it feels like captaining according to the pre-match plan rather than looking at the conditions and reacting.

      As I type, Leach comes on. You’re on yer own, Jack.


  12. dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 12:54 pm

    Can we do some statsguru stat mining for lowest totals with one fifty?

    This was just poor from England.


    • Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 1:22 pm

      A scarcely believable 65.

      This innings was joint 98th.


    • dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 2:09 pm

      Lowest I could find was 68/0 (fourth innings chase, Sehwag made 54*) against New Zealand. But I can’t find any instances of a team being all out for less than 100 with a 50.


    • Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 2:19 pm

      Sorry–more haste less speed! In my haste, I failed to spot that statsguru includes uncompleted innings in the list. I thought that figure sounded rather high!

      On closer inspection, it seems to be 82–a team visiting India was shot out by a not hugely well-known left-arm spinner who was very new to test cricket (ring any bells?!)

      There seem to have been twelve or so lower innings totals with a fifty–I can’t see a way to find out exactly easily because Statsguru includes the innings totals without extras.


      • dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 2:39 pm

        Most of those will be in the third or fourth innings. The closest I could find was a (probably?) Packer ravaged Australia being shot out in the first innings for 90; with one batsman making 46.

        I could find a list with innings with a score of 50, but that includes incomplete innings (and no totals provided above 100 on that). In fact no complete innings with scores of 100 or less seem to have had a fifty.


      • Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 2:53 pm

        The lowest ever was in the team’s first innings of the match, but the only instance I could see of a lower total in the very first innings of the match was by England (105) in the 1907-08 Ashes–although they came mighty close (113) in the third test match ever!


      • Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 2:56 pm

        Fuckin’ hell I’m not having a good day with reading tables am I? You’re right–it’s the lowest by one run, from a match played in 1879.


        • dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 3:31 pm

          That 113-side was captained by Lord Harris. Who apparently did much for cricket in Bombay when he was governor there. It may have taken some time, but a 142-year old record has finally been beaten.

          What a way to go for Absolom (the guy who made the fifty in that 1879 Test, in the first innings), in what must have been a freak accident.


    • Marek Feb 24, 2021 / 2:32 pm

      Four under 100:

      Sri Lanka 82 v India 1990-1

      India 97 v West indies 1975-6 (the match where only six players batted; Amarnath scored 60!)

      Sri Lanka 97 v New Zealand 1983-4

      South Africa 99 v Australia 1957-58


      • dArthez Feb 24, 2021 / 2:43 pm

        yeah, 82 is the record. Mind you extras was third highest contributor (8 runs; nine batsmen contributed 9 runs between them!) in that Sri Lanka rout. None of those were in the first innings of the match though.

        So England might have nabbed a record for themselves.


  13. Mark Feb 24, 2021 / 1:15 pm

    It seems Sky called this right after all. They have wasted money on England tours to India before.


  14. man in a barrel Feb 24, 2021 / 1:27 pm

    Watched the last over Anderson bowled. There seemed to be little swing, if any, a bit of seam movement and some uneven bounce. Archer might be a handful. Has the ball swung much?


    • dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 1:31 pm

      Bumrah and Ishant moved a bit (both ways) in the first few overs.


      • dlpthomas Feb 24, 2021 / 1:32 pm

        Hmm, lets try that again – Bumrah and Ishant got the ball to move in both directions in the first few overs.


        • man in a barrel Feb 24, 2021 / 2:57 pm

          Just saw the stat. 1.3 degrees for the first couple of overs bowled by England. 0.3 degrees after tea/lunch. They should get Leach into the attack. Maybe Broad should try those cutters again. He could have taken a couple of wickets in the last match but the chances were all grassed


  15. man in a barrel Feb 24, 2021 / 2:28 pm

    Why is Swann allowed to pollute the airwaves? I really detest overtly partisan commentary. A solution involving wire, pliars and his genitalia keeps flashing through my mind


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