THERE is a popular misconception that those of us not in favour of The Hundred have got some sort of problem with the concept per se.
That is not true for me.
After all, it’s only 20 balls fewer than a T20 game.
It’s still white-ball cricket in discernible form.
No, my problem with it is the knock-on effect to existing competitions – the County Championship, the 50-over and T20, plus the fact there is too much cricket anyway.
Already, the 50-over competition has been reduced to a second-class affair, clashing with the inaugural edition of The Hundred next summer, and it looks as though the Championship could soon follow suit.
In an interview in the latest edition of The Cricketer magazine, Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket, suggests that playing the Championship alongside The Hundred could actually work better.
“People will say the integrity of the Championship would be in question,” said Giles, “but you could view it slightly differently: play with a points system and have a healthy mix of senior players who are not in The Hundred, alongside some 19 and 20-year-olds.
“Have four rounds of Championship cricket at the height of summer, on good pitches that might spin. A lot of county members like seeing the young players, at outgrounds… that would be great. You could then move your 50-over back to the start of the year.
“It definitely will be the 50-over alongside The Hundred next summer, but this will be constantly reviewed.”
In other words, the Championship, the very pathway to Test cricket, and the tournament prized above all others by the Yorkshire members and their long-suffering brethren up and down the land, is set to be reduced to a second-class affair instead.
Having already been shoved into the season’s margins and mucked about with in terms of unequal division structures, and so on, it is already well down that road in any case, but Giles wants to give it a further push.
This, incidentally, from a man who, in the same interview, claims that “Test cricket is really important to us” and “we have a responsibility to world cricket to demonstrate how important it is”.
It is a bit like listening to a politician blithely trotting out conflicting comments and hoping that no one will notice.
Of course, it would be unfair to single out Giles for criticism concerning The Hundred. As with politicians, it’s pretty much the whole damn lot of them who are at fault – from the suits at the England and Wales Cricket Board to the counties themselves, who ushered it through for financial gain.
But we are really seeing now – as Giles’s comments prove – the wrecking ball that this competition is taking to the county game.
For in the name of a tournament that the vast majority of cricket fans do not want, but which the ECB say will pull in a new audience, everything that has been so good about the summer just gone, for instance, the World Cup, the Ashes, and so on, is being compromised and put at risk.
In The Cricketer’s rival publication, Wisden Cricket Monthly, there is an equally revealing article from their “secret county cricketer” who goes under the byline “Deep Cover”.
He writes that The Hundred “screams selfish, personal gain for any player who’s in it” and of the negative impact on county dressing rooms.
“Some counties have lost a lot of players (to The Hundred),” he writes. “Sussex have lost 11; Notts and Surrey have lost nine apiece. It’s dangerous for team unity at a lot of the counties.”
Referring to the fact that some county players are in The Hundred and others are not, he adds: “There’s a definite danger that bitterness and resentment among certain players will creep in. Especially guys who thought they were going to get picked up and didn’t, or guys from different eras who know that if they were a bit younger they’d have stood a chance.
“The gap will only get bigger between the very well-paid cricketers and those at the bottom of the ladder.”
Alas, the problem will get worse if the Championship clashes with The Hundred.
For although more youngsters will get the chance to play first-team cricket in 50-over next year, there is crucially no issue of players coming back from The Hundred to take their places as the 50-over will effectively be done and dusted at the same time.
Not so the Championship, which would continue long after the five-week 100-ball nonsense has finished.
How would a young Yorkshire player feel, for example, if he did well in the four rounds of Championship cricket played at the height of summer as suggested by Giles only to then lose his place to another player returning from The Hundred?
What would that do for team unity and the youngster concerned?
Ditto the potential affect on coaching staff.
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first XI coach, is to work with the Headingley 100-ball franchise Northern Superchargers next year while bowling coach Rich Pyrah leads Yorkshire in the 50-over Cup. Much has been made as to how this will benefit them – Gale in terms of learning under Superchargers’ head coach Darren Lehmann, Pyrah in terms of leading a team.
Those benefits are clear, but has anyone considered the corollary?
For what if Pyrah leads Yorkshire to 50-over glory and the club do nothing again in the Championship/T20?
What would that do for Gale’s standing in the dressing room and among the Yorkshire fans?
One is loath to say it will be interesting to see how everything pans out in the coming years, for this isn’t interesting, it’s depressing.