Scheduled for next summer, The Hundred will feature eight city-based franchises, with men’s and women’s teams, playing in a round-robin league, followed by play-offs and a final.
Intended to be quicker – and more action-packed – than a T20 game, the format will see bowlers deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls, with a change of ends every 10th ball, bowlers limited to 20 balls, a timeout for each bowling side and a 25-ball power-play to start each innings.
Sky will broadcast all 72 games but the ECB hopes The Hundred will bring cricket to a younger, less patient audience, with 10 of the men’s and eight of the women’s games also being broadcast by the BBC.
Some county bosses, fans and pundits have criticised the idea, though, saying it is too complicated and that T20 is already fast enough, as well as pointing out that The Hundred will overshadow the T20 Blast, the Twenty20 competition contested by the 18 counties every summer since 2003.
Many of those critics have wondered why a fourth format is even needed when the game already has first-class cricket and two limited-overs variations, particularly when the 50-over format has just culminated in one of the most exciting games in the sport’s history.
Morgan, the man who captained England to victory in that historic and thrilling World Cup final on Sunday, agrees that four formats might be one too many but he disagrees that The Hundred is the problem.
Speaking at the draft of the inaugural Euro T20 Slam, the newest addition to an already congested global T20 calendar, the 32-year-old said: “I think over the next few years, one of the formats will miss out – we can’t play with four formats.
“The Hundred, yes, I do think we need it. Whether it’s The Hundred, 10 overs or 20 overs, we need one franchise-based tournament, with fewer teams, in order to consistently sell the game to the country.
“Anybody I speak to who loves sport but doesn’t necessarily love cricket is crying out for a tournament that he or she understands, because 18 teams going for a long period of time just doesn’t make sense to anybody.”
Asked if that meant he was saying the T20 Blast is the one that should be culled, Morgan shrugged and said: “I’m not making the decisions but...”
He did not finish the sentence but the inference was clear.
Earlier on Friday, Morgan was announced as the ‘icon player’ for the Dublin Chiefs, the Irish capital’s Euro T20 Slam franchise, and he explained just how excited he was at the prospect of being able to play professional cricket for his home town, something he could never have imagined growing up.
A large part of this excitement, he explained, was because he hoped the tournament, which involves five other teams representing Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Rotterdam, would boost cricket in Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland.
That is what the ECB is hoping the Cricket World Cup, the upcoming Ashes and The Hundred will do in England and Wales, too.
British sport, however, does not have a great track record of translating elite success into sustained increases in participation, which is something Morgan wants to change.
“This is new ground for all us – we’ve never won a Cricket World Cup,” he said.
“I think we can plan ahead from here. What would really make the last four years of hard work worth it would be if we went into the next World Cup, and the following one, as genuine contenders.
“We don’t have to be hot favourites but to consistently raise the belief within the country – that ambition would drag everyone along. And with the group of guys we have at the moment – the age they are and the talent they possess – there’s no reason why we can’t do it.”
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