Perhaps unsurprisingly, we weren’t invited to the trials for The 100 that took place this week at Loughborough and Trent Bridge; but enough information has dripped out to get a good idea of where things are going with the ECB’s new competition.
As the ECB are discovering, cheap slogans and simple promises don’t necessarily translate easily into actual workable solutions. The problems begin with the very concept of “100” – a number of balls which it turns out isn’t divisible by 6, and so can’t be slotted neatly into traditional 6-ball overs! So… let’s have 5 ball overs… but that means more changes of end… okay, so let’s have 10 ball overs… but that would lead to fast bowlers getting injured… okay so let’s have 5 or 10 ball overs, according to whether the batsman’s mother’s maiden name ends in a “Y”?
Not quite as simple as it sounded in the blue-sky marketing meeting, is it?
Other ideas floated around – cutting the “red tape” of LBWs and/or PowerPlays – have gone nowhere, because it turns out there were actually quite good reasons for these laws after all, and scrapping them would have a lot of negative externalities – scrap LBW and I’d give it 5 minutes before batsmen started taking advantage and using their pads deliberately to protect the stumps; scrap the PowerPlay and you’d have 9 men on the boundary before you could say “Howzat?”!
So it looks like what we will end up with is exactly like cricket… but with a more complicated “overs” system (possibly not even called “overs” but “fives”) which they will try to mask by having a big scoreboard count down from 100 – even though they HAVE to keep some concept of overs (/ fives) to control how many balls each bowler can bowl and from which end they will be bowled, because counting actual balls would obviously be a nightmare!
What a farce!
And yet… for all the nonsense… there will be an upside – the fillip in visibility that will come as the media latch on to Something New™, as they did with the KSL; the Free-To-Air TV numbers that will dwarf those that have sat behind Sky’s paywall for a generation; the families that will come for the fireworks in the sky and stay for the fireworks on the field.
There will be more opportunities for players too – especially the fringe players, with two additional rosters to fill. So the players are on-board, because it offers them more – more cricket, more visibility, more fame… and more money!
And at the end of the day… as I’m not the first to say… it’s still cricket – swingers will still swing; spinners will still spin; and batsmen will still bat.
And we’ll be there to watch, like we always are.
Because it might be nonsense.
But it’s all the nonsense we’ve got.