Why cricket’s rulers have betrayed the game and the fans over The Hundred – Chris Waters

AFTER all the problems with The Hundred, from its less than immaculate conception to its torturous birth, it is ironic that it seems to be falling down on one of its most basic manifesto pledges: to make cricket more simple and easy to understand.

I don’t know about you, but I actually find the games harder to follow, as if one was watching a chess match played on a board of 60 squares instead of 64, with rooks allowed to move diagonally as well as horizontally and vertically, and pawns backwards as well as forwards.

In my case, the confusion stems from the abandonment of overs in favour of “fives”, and the fact that the television score graphics are so dreadful that they would have been laughed out of town by the designers of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.

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Perhaps that confusion does not extend to non-cricket fans, for whom the competition was supposedly designed in an effort to win them round in the first place, but the unnecessary tinkering with the number of balls bowled in one batch, five instead of six, plus the visual presentation adduced, makes the whole experience strangely indigestible to this palate.

Game of gimmicks: Trent Rockets' Rashid Khan celebrates with Marchant de Lange after winning The Hundred match at Lord's. Pictures: PA

As readers of these ramblings will know, I am against The Hundred on the grounds of the damage that it’s doing to the rest of the game, as opposed to for any cricket-specific reason.

The Hundred is no better or worse in my opinion than the T20 Blast, in which there is plenty to savour and enjoy, even for traditionalists such as myself, and if people want to watch white-ball cricket, then let them watch it.

But The Hundred’s failure to provide a strong enough point of difference from T20 – just this fluting around with “fives” and the like – plus the fact that all county competitions are suffering by its presence, means that it cannot be supported by anyone who truly cares about the first-class and 50-over game, with most of its advocates, you will have noticed, having some sort of vested interest in The Hundred’s success.

The boost to women’s cricket is clearly welcome, but ask yourself whether this could have been achieved by investing in and passionately promoting what we already had, a strong and successful T20 format, for at the moment the trade-off seems to be a shot in the arm for women’s cricket (good news) at the expense of the wrecking by stealth of county cricket (bad news), a trade-off that was not needed.

Boost: The Hundred has boosted the women's game, London Spirit celebrating at Lord's.

It is quite clear, even after just a few games, that The Hundred is basically a more complicated version of T20, with just a few extra gimmicks and a whole load of hype that we could well do without.

As much as I admire the players’ skills, I find that the whole experience leaves me cold, probably because I am sensitive to the collateral damage and also because if people keep telling me how good something is, as the ECB and the commentators do ad nauseam, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the product is not inclined to speak for itself.

When I got into cricket as a child in the 1980s, I was lucky not only in the fact that Test cricket was on free-to-air television but also that the commentators on radio and television were truly outstanding.

Now we have some pretty sad apologies, if truth be told, for the standards set by such as Richie Benaud, Jim Laker, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Trevor Bailey, et al, with not so much commentators at The Hundred, indeed, as cheerleaders for it, mostly ex-players with no editorial sense or discrimination who use superlatives so often that it’s as if they’re trying to convince themselves, never mind the gullible.

Northern Superchargers's Ben Stokes. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

I repeat what I said last week: my problem with The Hundred has nothing to do with the cricket per se. The cricket is bound to be of the standard that you would expect from any white-ball competition; there will be outrageous skills, memorable moments, extraordinary catches and breathless finishes.

The problem is that collateral damage, plus the absurd hype, the preposterous tinkering, the overt commercialism and the avarice that underpins the entire enterprise, the way in which the whole thing was railroaded through and the views of existing fans completely ignored. For that, there can be no justification; the game and those fans have been betrayed.

Ultimately, though, these ramblings are futile. The Hundred, like coronavirus, is a fact of life and we are just going to have to learn to live with it.

But is it really any easier to follow or better than T20? Having seen several matches on television, and also covered one live, it is a transparently failed attempt to reinvent the wheel.