The Hundred has been a contentious issue for English cricket since it was first launched in 2018. Its supporters, most notably within the ECB and the media, seem to treat it like a sacred object where it would be considered blasphemous to alter any part of it. The appointment of Surrey CCC’s Richard Thompson as ECB chair represents perhaps the first time since its inception that someone in a position of actual power has publicly questioned aspects of the competition, and that represents an opportunity to make The Hundred work for everyone.
One of the most egregious lies told regarding The Hundred is that it would help attract new fans to both watch other teams and play at their local clubs. If The Hundred does excite a kid into joining an All Stars Cricket session, then they would have to wait until May the next year. Someone wanting to see more T20 games has the same issue. There is a reason why you never see advertisements saying “You can buy this product… In eight month’s time!” That reason is because it would be a monumentally stupid waste of resources. After eight months, the excitement and interest will have largely faded.
This would all change if The Hundred was held in April. This would allow the ECB to say “Did you like attending this match? Well, this very ground is hosting seven more matches almost exactly like it starting next month. You can buy tickets now.”, or “Are you interested in playing cricket? Well you’re in luck, because this website will show you a list of local cricket clubs starting junior sessions in the next few weeks.”, and “Like these women cricketers? Here’s the fixture list for the Charlotte Edwards Cup.”. It even allows Sky to say “Did you like watching this match on BBC/YouTube/TikTok/Pick? Here’s how to subscribe to Sky Sports via Now TV, where you can watch cricket almost every day for the next five months.”
It just makes sense.
There are other benefits hosting the competition in April. The international calendar for the England teams is now ridiculously condensed thanks to the ECB trying to avoid scheduling games through either the IPL or The Hundred. With the IPL extending into June now and The Hundred taking up all of August, only September, July and half of June are available for 7 Tests, 12 ODIs and 12 T20Is between the men’s and women’s teams. 58 days of scheduled cricket in a space of roughly 75 days. It’s ridiculous, physically unsustainable, and simply can’t last. Something has to give and, absent a significant change of heart from the BCCI, it has to be the ECB which relents.
Obviously there are downsides to such a move. Nights are a lot colder in April than August, which would hit evening attendance somewhat. It wouldn’t all be school holidays, although the 2-week Easter break usually falls in April. Sky would probably not be too pleased if they wanted to show the IPL but were obliged to prioritise The Hundred instead, although I’d hope that the increased promotion for the rest of their Summer cricket might help mollify them.
Some players wouldn’t be available due to the IPL, including a few England internationals. Going by the squads in 2022, as many as 28 men’s cricketers in The Hundred (9 English plus 19 overseas) would be in India through April. The ECB could force players on central contracts to stay, but it would be massively unpopular with the PCA and might lead to people refusing to sign international contracts altogether. The loss of talent could be mitigated somewhat by the complete absence of international cricket in the IPL window, which would mean that virtually every other cricketer around the world was available. One obvious opportunity would be to recruit Pakistani players, who aren’t chosen by IPL teams for reasons left unspoken. That said, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to hold a T20 league at the same time as the IPL and not look like a second-tier competition. To be clear: The Hundred is a second-tier competition, but the ECB doesn’t want it to be that obvious.
There are undoubtedly other things that Richard Thompson could change in order to improve The Hundred for next season. The amount the women players are paid should be significantly increased, more women’s matches should have the prime nighttime slot, overall costs should be reduced, the on-screen graphics should be fixed, and Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen should be barred from entering the grounds. But none of that would have anywhere near the impact of having The Hundred, the showcase event for English cricket with up to 18 matches on Freeview, starting the season rather than being almost at its end.
If you have anything you’d like to say about the post, Thompson’s appointment, or anything else, please leave them below.
It does make sense
Great suggestion. The chief argument against would be the absence of leading players at the IPL however, as the Hundred’s own publicity was explicit before the launch, the fabled ‘new audience’ wouldn’t recognise the leading names in any event. From sitting in the crowd at T20 matches it is clear that the event is the key attraction for many rather than the names of the players (or indeed teams) on the field. The Commonwealth games is currently attracting big crowds and excitement even though I the great majority of the participants were not household names before the games started. Consequently I think that the loss of big names would not be a problem.
Far too sensible for it to ever happen. April has become a consistently dry and sunny month in the last 15 years so weather wouldn’t be the issue it would have been in the past either.
(Although if they moved it there would probably be a monsoon and some of us may be a little amused)
The funnier scenario would be a monsoon in August following a dry April, at least for me.
Is the egregious lie that the right logistical system is in place to facilitate engagement with cricket on the part of this new audience, or that the audience itself exists (and is happy both to attend matches and to attend them because it’s interested in cricket rather than fireworks, music, collectible game cards and so on)?
Because if it’s any element of the latter, then surely the logical thing to do is abolish the Hundred completely and put the resources into better catering for the audience that exists in actuality, rather than just in some blue-sky-thinker’s fevered imagination…
The target audience certainly exists. People who aren’t currently cricket fans form the majority of the country. I’m certainly not against using other attractions, whether it’s music, fireworks, card games, social media influencers or whatever else to draw people into watching or attending their first game either. My main issue is the logistics. Once you get them to watch a game of cricket, what’s next?
I don’t think the ECB have done a very good job of attracting people to The Hundred either, whether on TV or in person. Their approach has been inordinately expensive and wildly inefficient. The annual expense of marketing the matches and providing entertainment is almost twice what they stand to get in ticket sales. It would be cheaper just to ship in a stadium full of kids from the local area with free entry for everyone.
What I meant was whether the audience is actually coming to the games rather than whether there’s a theoretical untapped audience–which there clearly is. A lot of the anecdotal evidence from last year seemed to suggest that a large part of the attendance was simply existing Blast fans.
I’m not against using other attractions per se, but I don’t think you can sell anything by ignoring what it basically is (or for that matter by trying to deliberately alienate the existing customer base for your similar product). What worries me is that the ECB’s strategy seems to be promoting cricket matches by pretending that it isn’t cricket. They don’t seem to fully understand–or care–that a cricket match is not a fireworks show or a pop concert or whatever.
Your “what next” question is directly related to this I think–because it’s only a relevant question if what they’ve promoted a cricket match. Obviously in literal physical terms they have, but in terms of attendance I wonder if the new attendees have really “watched a cricket match” or just come to an exciting event. Which is a different thing, and won’t necessarily lead to people getting interested in cricket–especially if the sales pitch for the game has been to minimise reference to the actual cricket. It’s no more to be expected than that most people who go to Glastonbury will suddenly start producing their own home-made hats, just on the basis that there was a hat-making stall along with all the other enetrtainment.
On the attracting people front, one of the early marketing pitches was that the Hundred would really–based, it seemed, on no competent research methodology at all–tap into an untapped South Asian market. That seems to have failed completely last year from the anecdotal evidence I saw, and the ECB have gone very quiet about it. But, since they effectively bankrupted English cricket in spending on the Hundred, some more accountability should be forthcoming…at the very least.
Yeah, the ECB’s apparent assumption with The Hundred is that it would appeal to British Asians because it was superficially similar to the overseas leagues such as the IPL and PSL which they already followed. That’s more or less it. Of course, it’s not a simple matter to do this. Let us say that you decided to cater to British Asians by banning alcohol from the grounds and massively boosting the number of Pakistani overseas players in the squads, then that potentially alienates people of Indian or Bangladeshi heritage as well as many White British sports fans who enjoy drinking at the games (and possibly the host grounds with their lost beer revenue).
Hundred from the Germanic Hundrath meaning 120.
Only Tom Harrison could make up such shit
Why not just cancel the Hundred…….
………it is a complete abomination.
Good to read you again, Danny.
This is a great, out-of-the-box idea which has a certain, realpolitik logic to it. What better way to bring us red-ball fans onside with the Hundred, than to set it in opposition to a greater, more alien foe: the IPL? Surely all those crusty old Brits would rally round the plucky little franchises, gallantly challenging the cement-and-mobile-sponsored behemoths from India! 🙂
It’s a good idea to get the Hundred attracting a new audience in April, and to set the sporting agenda for the summer from the outset, but there’s a fatal flaw. It involves believing the ECB’s reasons for creating the competition. All that guff about mothers and kids, new targets, fresh starts. This idea calls that bluff.
This idea won’t happen because those arguments were a facade, and the Hundred is about money and centralising power away from the traditionalist counties who still get to vote on the future of the sport in Britain.
That’s my feeling on the subject, at least. The question could be an acid test for the new ECB boss, but I suspect it’s too radical and too close to an ethos of pure, unadulterated amateurism (the love of the sport above all) for these money-driven times.