The England and Wales Cricket Board are confident of attracting global stars to their divisive 100-ball competition in 2020, which will receive £180m of funding over its first years.
The innovation, set to be formally christened as ‘The Hundred’ in the coming days and with franchise names set to be finalised within six months, forms a central pillar of a new five-year strategy – ‘Inspiring Generations’ – aimed at broadening cricket’s appeal and growing its base of players and fans.
There has been scepticism about the introduction of another new format from sections of the media, existing fans and some current professionals. Most damaging, perhaps, was the somewhat cool reaction of India captain Virat Kohli, the world’s most marketable figure. ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, a key mover behind the plans, expects interest and uptake to be high amongst overseas A-listers.
“I think we will be very successful in getting players to come over,” he said.
“This is a format that throws different challenges on the table. With 10 balls from each end and bowlers able to bowl 10 consecutive balls...the world’s best players will want to test their abilities in the format. We think it will provide more pressure in those key moments and will be a very, very good training ground for international Twenty20.”
Harrison was speaking on a day of meetings at Millbank Tower in London, an ‘all-game’ get together of chairmen and chief executives of the first-class counties, MCC and the 39 county boards.
As well as putting a final figure on the project, which averages £36million per season but will likely to be skewed quite heavily towards the opening year given start-up costs, Harrison was eager to engage in a bout of “myth busting” about its aims.
Far from leaving behind existing fans in pursuit of new ones, he insisted it was about bringing them together.
“The new competition is designed to appeal to cricket fans first and foremost but also to a broader audience,” he said.
“It is an ambitious statement to say cricket can be bigger and involve more people. We want to shed the tag of elitism and privilege, which has no place in our future. I don’t want a ‘South Asian strategy’ because I want that to be integrated into our core strategy. I want it to be as normal for a little girl to say ‘I want to play cricket for England’ as a little boy.”