The prospects of there being a fresh tactical dimension in The Hundred have been all but dashed after Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) chairman Daryl Mitchell said that no-one was really up for the 10-ball over because it seems kind of tiring.
Speaking to The Mail, he said: “People who are going to bowl at the death are concerned about that because of the physical demands and mental well-being. I don’t think it would be possible to ask, say, Tymal Mills to bowl a 10-ball over at 92-93 miles per hour, especially if you throw in the odd wide or no ball.”
So, to be clear: a whole extra limited overs competition is fine, but one guy bowling an extra four balls in one of his overs is far too great a workload.
Mitchell then raised an interesting question about the PCA’s workload thresholds by suggesting: “Maybe we could have eight-ball overs at the start and end of an innings to make up the hundred.”
Or maybe you could have nine-ball overs? How does that grab you? An innovative solution or would it not be possible to ask, say, Tymal Mills to bowl a nine-ball over at 92-93 miles per hour, especially if you throw in the odd wide or no ball?
Cutting to the very heart of the issue, Mitchell then said: “There’s not really an easy way to get to a hundred balls and the fact it’s not divisible by six does cause a problem.”
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. After that, build a whole stupid thing around the stupid answer and then pin all of your hopes for the survival of your sport on how well the stupid thing fares.
The ECB are going to launch this 100-ball competition and they don’t give a shit that pretty much every existing cricket fan thinks it’s a bad idea. This is because they’re after a “new audience”.
Over at Wisden, we’re saying that this stance is moronic and completely misses the point about how people latch onto a sport in the first place.
Pondering how to attract a new audience, the ECB asked people who don’t like cricket what they would like to see. These people entirely unsurprisingly told them that they would like to see something that differs from the sport that they don’t currently like.
They have asked people who don’t understand cricket to identify cricket’s flaws and make it better. These people don’t profess to be expert sport designers, but their collective voice has given rise to something new anyway.
Surely a smarter way of going about things would have been to ask existing fans how they first came to the sport. These are the people who have gone from not liking cricket to liking it, after all. They therefore provide some sort of template for how people are typically won over. Identify the themes and you can maybe identify areas where you could be doing better.
A few weeks ago we asked people on Twitter how they were won over. Pretty much everybody was influenced by friends or family. That’s how people get hooked – through their interactions with other people.
Even if there was one defining moment that finally tipped the balance, they’d normally been worn down by the sport for a long time beforehand. Maybe they always heard it on the radio. Maybe they played in the back yard with a parent. Free-to-air coverage may well have played a part, but seeing the action alone is not enough.
If you’re immersed in a cricket environment, you’ll probably get into cricket. That’s generally the way it works. A cricket environment is not just what’s on the telly, it’s what people around you are talking about. The conversation matters. Get enough people talking about something and it becomes a big deal and when something’s a big deal, it makes headlines.
If existing fans hate a tournament, they aren’t going to enthuse about it and if existing fans aren’t enthusing about it, that oh-so-vital conversation is stillborn.
Of all the very many sizeable questions that arise from the ECB’s plan to introduce a new 100-ball format to cricket, the biggest one is surely this: how did they decide who had to have the “fresh tactical dimension” quote attributed to them?
To quickly bring you up to speed, the 100-ball format is designed to be a “unique selling point” (or as Stuart Broad put it “a slightly different unique selling point”). Because of that necessary uniqueness, it can’t be broken down into five-ball overs because then it would still be 20 overs a side. Nor can it be broken down into six-ball overs because of maths.
How do you resolve a knotty little problem like this? The ingenious solution – which everyone involved must have listened to, comprehended, and then agreed was definitely excellent and appropriate – is to have 15 six-ball overs and then a 10-ball over to finish.
This 10-ball over sticks out a bit, doesn’t it? Maybe you could brand it and make a big deal of it. We’d brand it The LeftOver. The ECB went with a subtler approach. They decided that it would add a fresh tactical dimension.
This is a pretty transparent attempt to make the best of things having already invested a great deal of time and having had a great many meetings about your brilliant new 100-ball format. Clearly, the ECB were beyond the point of turning back.
The organisation backed itself into a 10-ball over corner and “fresh tactical dimension” was the best weapon it could lay its hands on to fight off criticism. Someone had to say those words. Publicly. No-one would have wanted to, but someone had to.
Did they draw straws? Did they put names in a hat? Did the top execs pull rank? We’ll never know. All we know is that ECB Chief Commercial Officer, Sanjay Patel, commented: “The other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension.”
Poor ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel.
ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel will be the managing director of the new competition. You have to assume they gave him the job and a few extra quid to try and make up for the embarrassment of having his name associated with the fresh tactical dimension quote.