“GOOD GAME, but what we really need now is a fourth format,” said no one ever after England’s dramatic World Cup final win against New Zealand.
Why, the very idea that the England and Wales Cricket Board’s controversial 100-ball competition could generate even a shred of the excitement witnessed at Lord’s last Sunday is preposterous.
Ditto the notion that that wonderful final and the millions who watched it on free-to-air television somehow validates the concept of The Hundred, with the ECB now claiming that they couldn’t have timed The Hundred any better.
But if they were pinning their hopes on England winning one match and in the most dramatic fashion conceivable, and on Sky television eventually bowing to the pressure of allowing Channel 4 to share the final for the greater good, then it was a plan built on somewhat flimsy foundations, not least given that the ECB have pumped £200m into the 100-ball tournament that starts next year.
Don’t believe for one minute the party line that The Hundred is the best opportunity to engage those people who just happened to be tuning into Channel 4 last week.
For a start, those people saw the absolute pinnacle of white-ball cricket, the most dramatic one-day match that has ever been played between two proud nations in a world event that takes place once every four years and actually means something.
In contrast, The Hundred is a competition that 90 per cent of cricket fans think is absurd and which features new city-based franchises with which no one has the slightest affinity or connection, with riveting names such as Northern Superchargers, Southern Brave and Birmingham Phoenix. Yuck.
Good luck if you seriously think that eight live games of that stuff on the BBC next summer is going to keep those mesmerised last Sunday hooked for life.
Putting myself in the shoes of a wide-eyed youngster, who had watched cricket for the first time on Channel 4 last week and been transfixed, what would I want to happen now?
Well, for a start, I would want to watch Ben Stokes and co again as quickly as possible, whatever the format. I would want to see them in the Ashes series that takes place from August 1 – but which is stuck behind a subscription paywall.
I certainly wouldn’t want to wait the best part of a year for my next dose of cricket on free-to-air.
By then, you wonder how many children in homes without Sky will have moved on to something else, cricket having grabbed their attention one minute and then lost it the next.
In terms of keeping the nation riveted and engaged, the horse bolted as soon as cricket moved off terrestrial television in 2005.
Even if The Hundred does bring in new fans, has anyone considered the converse effect - i.e., how many will be lost and disillusioned, never to return?
Has anyone considered, too, the fact that Sunday’s final was not an example of the crash-bang-wallop that The Hundred will be? Instead, it was an old-school one-day game, with low totals and very few boundaries by modern standards, and yet young people were still utterly riveted apparently – hey, whaddya know? That’s because it was cricket, dear reader, proper one-day cricket as opposed to the forced razzmatazz of a competition designed to appeal to non cricket-fans.
In pursuit of that market, the ECB are now decimating the domestic schedule, devaluing the existing three formats of the game and damaging our chances of retaining the 50-over World Cup in India in four years’ time.
“Hey, well done ECB,” said no one ever too.