NO matter what you think about The Hundred – and what I think about it would have to be beeped out if it was broadcast before the 9pm watershed – it is a crying shame that 50-over cricket in this country is being devalued as a consequence.
Don’t just take my word for it, but that of Gordon Hollins, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s managing director of county cricket, who has tacitly admitted that this is the case.
“The 50-over competition will become a development competition,” he said, “but that’s a price that has to be paid to fit in the new formats.
“And it brings certain advantages in helping to develop young players.”
Maybe it does, but there are second teams and Academy systems for that, along with the usual coaching pathways.
That the 50-over tournament, the Royal London Cup, will be turned into a second-class event is not, in my opinion, a price that has to be paid or indeed should be paid to accommodate the new 100-ball shindig starting next year.
I take that view not simply as someone who dislikes The Hundred and everything it stands for, which is the craven pursuit of money as opposed to sporting excellence, but as someone who thinks that 50-over cricket is worth preserving.
The Royal London Cup is a good competition, offering a bridge of sorts between the first-class game and the more fast-paced nature of T20, and to spoil it makes no sense at all.
In the week when England announced their preliminary squad for the forthcoming World Cup, only fuelling excitement for the fiesta of 50-over cricket to come, it seems nonsensical that the ECB have built the entire season around England’s attempt to win that tournament and yet are now effectively turning their backs on the 50-over game.
Indeed, they have been working towards the World Cup for many years now, as evidenced by the appointments of men such as Andrew Strauss and Trevor Bayliss, and they will go into the event as the No 1-ranked side in the world – a testament to the talent and consistency of Eoin Morgan and his team.
But because of the desire to squeeze The Hundred into a saturated schedule, the Royal London Cup is the competition that will now pay the price.
As it will be played at the same time as The Hundred because no other space slots are available, it will be devoid of all the top players and overseas stars, with counties expected to field mainly youth teams.
This is one of the reasons why those such as myself are so set against The Hundred – not because we despise the concept per se, although I certainly do not like it, but because of the effect it has on established formats.
We have already seen the systematic damage done to the County Championship, which is usually shoehorned into the months of April and September to accommodate white-ball cricket, and this blinkered move to introduce a fourth format can only have a damaging effect.
The situation just seems so perverse.
Fifty-over cricket, the one format of the game that England are indubitably good at, is being cast aside in favour of a format which, according to various surveys, around 90 per cent of cricket fans do not want.
The only people who want it, surprise, surprise, are the clubs and the people who will make money from it.
And it is about money in the final analysis, not the quality of the cricket.
The Royal London Cup is once again producing some fine entertainment.
Take Yorkshire’s opening game against Leicestershire at Headingley last Wednesday.
Although it was a one-sided fixture, with Yorkshire winning by 213 runs, nearly 3,000 watched in glorious sunshine sparkling hundreds from Harry Brook and Gary Ballance, followed by a five-wicket haul from Mathew Pillans.
Fifty-over cricket works and is well established, but the ECB would rather let it rot.