Please will you explain why you feel such pure visceral hatred for The Hundred

Our opinion of The Hundred is that’s a bit silly and the way it’s come about with the ECB papering over mathematical cracks as they appear before its eyes has been laughable.

We also think that when they actually get round to playing the matches, it’ll be cricket. It’ll be cricket marketed in a way that makes you feel like maybe you ate some raw shellfish that had been sat out in the sun for a long time, but it’s the marketing part of the equation that’ll make you feel like that, not the cricket part.

The cricket part

The cricket part will be pretty much a Twenty20 game, only they’ll talk about how many balls are to go rather than how many overs. (Don’t tell anyone, but we’re actually fine with this. It makes sense. There’s no reason why they couldn’t count down from 120 instead of 100 of course, but let’s not dwell on that.)

As Dave Tickner wrote on Cricket 365 yesterday, The Hundred will involve a load of great players spread far more thickly across only eight teams. And some of the tournament will be on telly. Beyond all the match-shortening nonsense and weak arguments about fresh tactical dimensions, these are fundamental positives that even the ECB might not quite be able to override.

The Hundred is not doing much to win over existing cricket fans, which is stupid, but cricket is pretty much always marketed in a stupid way. Cricket thrives despite marketing efforts, not because of them. Cricket marketing is not a thing you get angry about. It is a thing you roll your eyes at.

But yet a lot of people feel angry. Beyond angry even. Some people are displaying that ears-flat, cornered cat ferocity that can only come when you’re out-and-out terrified of something.

How could anyone ever be scared of The Hundred?

We get that elements of The Hundred are pretty objectionable – like making up a load of teams and trying to magic-up rivalries out of nowhere – but why be angry about that? If it’s such a stupid, obviously-destined-to-fail idea, then just sit tight and ride it out.

The threat really lies in how much has been invested in the competition and what that might mean for other forms of cricket. The Hundred is only threatening if it is the thin end of a wedge being hammered through the UK game.

Two questions:

  1. Do you honestly believe that The Hundred is going to usurp Test cricket?
  2. Do you think that The Hundred will lead to the abolition of the counties and do you care about that?

Our own answer to the first question is no. For all that Test cricket is forever supposed to be dying on its arse, it’s still the biggest deal in this country. The Hundred is basically being funded with Test money. You might object to that allocation of resources, but it underscores the fact that taken in isolation the longest format is pretty safe. Whatever you suspect the ECB’s intentions to be, you can’t ignore your entire audience and get away with it.

The threat to county cricket is more realistic

The 50-over competition has been maimed already and next in the firing line is the T20 Blast. If The Hundred proves popular, then the current domestic T20 competition will offer quite a lot of calendar congestion and no particularly earth-shattering unique selling point. It could go too. (Or maybe its departure would clear the way for a rejuvenated county 50-over competition – who knows?)

Would the County Championship then be threatened? You can’t see how it would be directly threatened – it’s a very different beast and surely (surely!) there’s acceptance that the nation’s cricketers need to continue playing first-class cricket to sustain the Test team that is – as mentioned earlier – the peg from which pretty much all of this is hung.

So we wouldn’t particularly worry about first-class cricket as a concept, but there might be a threat to the counties. This is all very theoretical, but if The Hundred makes a case that spreading the nation’s finest players across eight teams is better than having them smeared across 18 then people may well conclude that we should either (a) ditch 10 counties or (b) ditch 18 counties and instead bundle everything up under the eight new names that are being used for The Hundred.

And that leads us to the second part of question two.

Would you care if county cricket clubs were abolished?

From a wholly detached cricket fan point of view, we would be very much in favour of funnelling all of the English first-class cricketers into just eight teams. You would get far more Big Name Bowler v Big Name Batsman moments in red ball cricket, which would be great, and runs scored and wickets taken would also carry greater weight when picking players for Test cricket (which is the format we care about above all others).

But it’s not that simple, is it? It’s not even a question of being a ‘fan’ of a certain county and not wanting to see your club fold.

For a lot of people, county cricket is a fundamental element of the British summer and, by extension, a fundamental element of their life.

It is not a commercial thing, but that is very much the point. To abolish it for commercial reasons sends the message that commercial concerns are the only ones that matter. You don’t have to think too hard to realise that applying that philosophy to every single issue in the world probably wouldn’t pan out amazingly well.

We put little value in tradition for tradition’s sake, but county cricket is an unusually timeless thing and as such something of a bastion.

Perhaps the feeling is that if county cricket can disappear, then anything can disappear. The idea that even county cricket could go raises the possibility that one day you might find yourself adrift in a world entirely devoid of touchstones.

That is an unsettling thought for anyone and maybe explains why quite a lot of people seem so crazily, disproportionately enraged about what is at the end of the day a fairly daft knockabout cricket tournament.


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31 Appeals

  1. Yep, pretty much that. It has felt for a long time like the ECB would quite like the County Championship (which, as yer Maj has stated, is not largely a commercial endeavour) to go away, or at least for a lot of the counties to go away so that the FC landscape can be remoulded to be like the one in Australia. As a supporter of a small team, and a small team that the ECB isn’t fond of (having bailed it out recently at the cost of most of its good players and success), this worries me.

    It’s also the fact that in an already congested season, where matches get pushed into the margins and the concept of ‘Summer’ is treated liberally, any new competition causes more congestion. If anything has to give (more)… well I thought it’d be the CC, but now that they’ve gutted the ODC I imagine it must be next in line.

    Central to all this is the premise that the Hundred, despite all its bone-headed trappings, has the players to be a success and will probably hang around for a good while, leaving a trail of burned counties in its wake.

  2. I’m not sure that having so many counties is great for the England team but I’m not sure it’s awful either. It does provide a bigger pool of players to draw from, especially spinners and wicketkeepers. And arguably it gives more chances to younger players, plus more games in a season and different conditions. Quite a lot of Aussie first-class cricketers have only played a handful of matches by the age of 25.

    I’m still willing to concede future England players might benefit from stronger competition but aside from any benefits of the division structure there are other things too – Lions tours, maybe Lions matches vs touring teams, North vs South or other inter-zonal matches, the season opening match against the county champions, the ECB encouraging or arranging placements for youngsters in overseas FC/List A tournaments over the English winter, there are ways and means that could be used basically. England’s Test team has been world class in recent memory so I’m not convinced the county system dooms it to inevitable mediocrity.

    For those of us who do not live in or even near a big city, killing off our county teams would leave us a long old way from any domestic team to identify with, and goodness knows what effect it would have on talent pathways etc. I know Aus has far fewer teams for a far bigger country, but that’s a very different case – almost the entire population is at least nominally represented by a state side they can identify with and into whose talent pathway the youngsters would fall, and the bulk of them live in only a handful of major cities whereas the English population is far less concentrated.

    Aside from that, I just like my county club! And my second and third counties. The history, the rivalries, the whole lot. I think domestic cricket fans’ reactions are not all that surprising really. Suppose a coalition of US media titans took over all soccer in this country. They recognised that promotion and relegation introduced harmful financial uncertainty but also led to teams being distributed around the leagues in a way that did not produce the optimal financial return. Far better to abolish all the old football clubs and establish a new franchise system. Much more equitable, you could ensure every major population centre either had or was within easy access to a top-tier franchise. Smaller towns would be given appropriately sized minor-league feeder clubs, producing an excellent talent pathway for the top league and the national team. It would be very very efficient and wildly unpopular.

  3. I don’t hate The Hundred but I just don’t see the point beyond money making. The T20 has every chance to be popular, it was full this year, record crowds. The Hundred doesn’t fill a gap and is killing one day cricket literally the year after England wins the one day cricket World Cup.

    Just renegotiate with Sky to get T20 on terrestrial TV…. you could avoid a whole new format.

    I really don’t see it taking off tho, so I’m just waiting for it to breeze through.

  4. For me it’s part of a wider question in sport that talent follows the money. If you play football, your goal is to play in the Champions league. Playing for your country is just a bonus.

    If you play rugby, your goal is to play for your country in the 6N or World Cup. If your domestic side does well, again, that is a bonus.

    Internationally cricket is at a crossroads. Traditionally the goal was to play for England. The rise of the IPL franchise cricket with their riches have muddied this up and the Hundred will even more so. As a player, where do you set your goals because you can’t have it all?

    Something has to give. It’s either fewer formats or fewer teams. The proposed situation is unsustainable.

    • I naively assumed when twenty-overs took off and the first edition of the World T20 went well that we were just on the brink of a straight swap, 50 overs changing as the “short format” norm to 20 overs. After all we’d already cut down internationally from 60 overs and domestically a variety of slightly shorter formats had been sloshing around for years, so cutting the “short” format down to baseball-match length seemed entirely logical. I still reckon there’d be some merit in it actually – the great thing about Tests is you can follow them over the course of a week, even if not listening live to TMS you get updates on other radio stations or online or when you read the paper or watch the evening news, even if you don’t sit and watch the highlights show. I’m not sure many people follow 50 over cricket in a similar way so why not congeal it into a suitable format for watching after work? Originally 20 overs was marketed as like a one-day game with the boring bits taken out. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate actually, but if you buy that logic, why not just let’s dispense with the boring stuff? And that applies potentially even more to domestic cricket, where attendances are below commercial levels, than to international cricket.

      What I didn’t anticipate was Global Franchisegeddon. A lot of players will make better livings as 20-over airmile-earners than as international cricketers. Even if English players somewhat buck that trend, there’s a good chance of it decimating the strength of other international sides which will in turn make international cricket a harder sell even in its heartlands. A strong Windies, Pakistan, South Africa etc are all good for the global game but they’re good for ticket sales here too.

      I do feel like the health of the global game requires someone to come up with an alternative model to year-round franchise cricket and I’m also disappointed at how samey and homogenised the product is becoming (pointless rules changes notwithstanding). The same marquee players, a different airport and a differently garish kit. The same auction system and resulting disconnect from local communities. The Hundred is a bit of an “if you can’t beat ’em, join’ em” affair that doesn’t do much to address to underlying issues while simultaneously continuing to undermine the primacy of international cricket and in a broader sense degrading the “first class” (ie “next best thing after international cricket”) status of the traditional counties.

      One good thing, arguably, is that international club competition doesn’t seem to have really taken off like it has in football – that might in the long run have posed a serious rival to international cricket, aside from its exacerbation of schedule and attention span congestion.

  5. As a separate point, I do dislike the format and though it is clearly a format of cricket to be played by cricketers and good cricket-players will do well at the Hundred – this isn’t some weird new sport – I’m not a fan of cocking around with the basics of the rules. Especially the ones that are actually ingrained in the popular consciousness even of casual fans.

    To repeat a moan on an old thread because on reflection it’s more relevant here…

    Cricket statto types are going to have a minor nightmare classifying these weird metric overs and relating it to existing data. When you’ve got format gimmick creep then things like “all time records” become incomparable or less interesting to the more casual fan and records do attract interest and excitement even if most statistical compilations do not. “Six sixes in an over” anyone? Isn’t that one of the basic points of comparison for outstanding batting performance in popular cricket folklore? The Hundred just feels a bit Cricket Maxy to me. If it does prove successful then I wonder what “innovations” might come next.

  6. To answer your questions first before I launch into full “visceral hatred mode”:

    1. No, because it’ll fail.
    2. City franchises are probably the thin edge of the wedge that will marginalise county cricket to the point that eventually it expires.
    2b. Yes, but only in that sort of nebulous “but it’s tradition” manner that you previously discuss. On the other hand “but it’s tradition” is the main explanation for most of cricket in general.

    Why I have a visceral hatred for the hundred:

    Cricket in general and cricket in this country specifically had two main problems:
    1. A dwindling interest in the county game
    2. Ridiculous fixture congestion.

    To attempt to fix the first by exacerbating the second is just pig-headed stupidity, and further divides an already fairly small audience between four formats, rather than three.

    That the scheduling of it pushes both the County Championship and List A games further to the margins means that our best player will play even less “real” cricket than now, and what they do play will probably be in late February or mid-October as the county season stretches to accommodate yet another format. While I enjoy the newly energised ODI game, a team of future Jason Roys playing a team of future Aaron Finchs is not really what I’m looking for in test cricket, and these are only players we’re likely to produce.

    What is particularly obtuse is that is all this is done in order to bring in a format which, in terms of appeal attempts to fill exactly the same niche as T20 already sits in but with the added bonus of not appealing to cricket fans, and having some peculiar rules tweaks that will make it more difficult for any new fans picked up to transition to watching proper cricket.

    And then there’s the waste of resources. They could simply have spent all this money marketing the Blast (or whatever it’s called), or even subsidising having more cricket on terrestrial TV.

    So yes, basically I hate everything about it and it makes me angry.

  7. Alfonz Cavalier

    October 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    There is also a question of geography when it comes to the reducing/ abolishing counties issue. Yes, some clubs are quite small and couldn’t survive commercially without bungs from the ECB, but they act as points of access to the game at a local level. We already clearly see that cricket is more popular in areas of the country where there are first class teams (i.e. counties), because proximity to a county side gives opportunities to see matches (even if only T20) and pathways into the professional game for promising club and school players. If that goes, you can envisage a sort of cricket blackout in areas like Derbyshire and Leicestershire (or even Somerset and Essex).

    I think the threat to the counties is real: when figures like Trevor Bayliss and even Jonathan Agnew are suggesting it, you know that the mood is turning. The ECB doesn’t like having to deal with 18 clubs who each have separate interests, and fears the capacity of the counties to act as a bloc, as they did over the Hundred. They’re a rival centre of power within the game and a net loss in terms of money – in comparison, affection, tradition and looking out for the interests of small groups of members (mostly of pensionable age) probably doesn’t seem very important. The Hundred franchise system presents a clear template for remodeling domestic cricket in England from the bottom up.

    But I think the best argument against scrapping the 18 counties is this: you don’t grow a sport by reducing the number of professional players and teams. There’s no logic behind that.

    Cricket in England should accept that its ‘brand’ is sort of traditional, it’s old-fashioned and a bit ‘barmy’ (cringe) and rowing too hard against those associations can only confuse potential fans. I would have backed Dan Norcross’s suggestion of a remodeled county T20 competition, with two divisions for promotion and relegation, some matches on free-to-air, and ECB budget committed to marketing and an IPL style auction for big name overseas players, mainly in the top division. That would be a recognizable and distinctly English tournament format that strengthened the counties, played to existing fans and had some potential for attracting new ones. Sports franchises aren’t much of a thing here.

    All academic now, of course. But the fear is real.

  8. As a non-UK person, the main problem I see is the reduction in the number of teams

    In Australia the Big Bash increased the number of teams

    In India, cricket, is de facto national game and the supreme court ruled that every state and union territory should have their own team
    For example Chandigarh, which is a Union Territory and ALSO capital of two states: Punjab & Haryana will now have its own team, in addition to punjab & Haryana teams

    In UK, in football there are 18 teams ?, and even match amongst teams in the bottom is watched with lots of interest

    Extending this logic to cricket, the blast/100 should have added more teams (such as Sheffield, Liverpool ?)

    • Seems that the 100 is a political project, to start on a clean slate, rather than involving any existing county competitions

      It makes no Cricket sense to me but probably makes political sense for the ECB

  9. The comments here read like some sort of specialist support group for aggrieved cricket fans – is this one of the new services which Patreon donations are supporting….?

    I don’t hate The Hundred, but I do feel a bit confused about many aspects of the competition, which seem like gimmicks and in some cases appear to make the game harder rather than easier to understand.

    It is also a bit bemusing (although perhaps an unfair criticism) that so much effort has gone into this new competition (seemingly) at the expense of promoting domestic versions of the two forms of cricket with with many non-cricket fans have just spent months getting acquainted and, in some cases, getting emotionally involved with. Anyone who fell in love with cricket during the World Cup or THAT Ashes Test may well balk at having to learn yet another set of rules for a sport they didn’t really care about 6 months ago anyway.

    There are undoubtedly positive elements (cricket on free-to-air TV, some of the world’s best players, Shahid Afridi) but it I think one of the reasons existing fans are annoyed with The Hundred is that seemingly any criticism (valid or otherwise) of any aspect of it is dismissed by Those Who Know Better with the riposte that ‘your opinion doesn’t matter, it’s not aimed at you, you already like cricket’.

    I would be sad if the County Championship was abolished, but not too upset if the T20 Blast was replaced by The Hundred.

  10. A great KC commenter (Bert) once wrote about cricket administrators upgrading cats to dogs. That got the cat lovers among the readers angry – although their ire was really aimed at Giles Clarke back then. There’s something similar in the air about The Hundred; they’re ‘upgrading’ something.

  11. I don’t have visceral hatred for anything cricket related.

    I fear that The Hundred won’t work and will therefore be a sink into which ECB money that could be far better spent might flow.

    I would love to be proved wrong.

    The way the thing has been done is especially/uniquely knackering for my own county, Middlesex, which is a real bummer.

    • When compared to Australia & India, England has 2 unique problems

      1) Unlike UK, In both countries cricket is the primary summer sport
      It is summer all year around in India

      2) first class cricket is profitable for England !?
      The ECB represents the counties unlike BCCI & CA which represent their countries
      Like a cancer which grows slowly the ECB has been trying to take control and the hundred is a symptom that the cancer had meta-stazised

  12. In other news, there is test cricket at the moment.

    India v South Africa from Visakhapatnam.

    It is almost as difficult to find this match on the TV as it is to pronounce (or even get to Visakhapatnam.

    I needed to do a great deal of research to find the place but I did eventually get there. Visakhapatnam I mean, in 2011. Oh, similarly I researched and found the Sky Channel upon which the match is being broadcast: Sky 717. A Channel named Star GOLD. “Free to Sky subscribers”; if that phrase isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is. Perhaps it is free to other folk too.

    Took me so long to find it (Star GOLD I mean, not Visakhapatnam) I have more or less run out of time to watch cricket today.

  13. King Cricket

    October 3, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Someone unsubscribed from the site because of this article.

    They said: “On the basis of this short sighted and utterly vacuous argument I will unsubscribe.”

  14. Hundreds are subdivisions of counties so there should be more teams, not less. Except in much of the Danelaw North where they are called Wapentakes, presumably due to our cultural predilection for stabbing each other.

  15. Everybody’s salty about this competition, even the sponsors.

  16. I don’t really have much of an opinion either way on the hundred. I only had a vague notion that it was starting next year. I’ve just had a butchers at its Wiki entry and was pleasantly surprised that there’s a chance of a ‘new simplified scoreboard’.

    What really concerns me are the names of the teams – Manchester Originals…really? How the hell am I supposed to get behind a team named after boiled sweets?

    I might subscribe to this website, just so I can unsubscribe. That’ll show you all.

  17. The difference in results between Leicestershire existing and not existing might be negligible, and they might not be much more these days than a stopping off point between Oakham/Uppingham School and Trent Bridge combined with a retirement home, but kill them off in FC cricket and I lose all interest in domestic cricket. I’m not following Notts whatever they call them.

    I don’t really mind if they replace the Blast with the Hundreds because I don’t give a toss about either.

    • I know my comment may have sounded flippant, and it was intended to be so. But I would be mortified if they sacked off Leicestershire or any other FC county. I heard Agnew on the wireless the other day advocating tossing Leicestershire off, and was as close to angry about it as I ever get about such things.

      Over the last, Lord knows how long how many years, the first class cricket season schedule has been the biggest pile of dog shit imaginable. I think that is harming domestic cricket far more than the lack of a more ‘accessible format’ for people that don’t understand the current rules.

      I’d agree with Daneel, I couldn’t give a toss whether they adopt the Hundred, keep the Blast or pour cash into some other ill-thought out scheme, FC cricket needs to be prioritised at some level. Regular weekly starts on a Wednesday for CC games, with a limited overs knock about on a Sunday might work (err, sound familiar?). They could play the Hundred with the franchise players after the end of the day’s play. It might encourage people to turn up a bit earlier to catch a bit of the Championship game.

      My hobby horse for a couple of years, if they want to go the way of franchised cricket, is a mixed sex competition (obviously men and women playing cricket together, rather than some sort or PRON competition).

      Dunno.

  18. From a non-UK perspective, one positive of the hundred is the relaxation in visa rules

    Players like Nepal’s lamichhane who have played only domestic T20s would now be eligible for a visa

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