West Indian star Chris Gayle was overlooked as the eight teams for next year’s inaugural season of The Hundred took shape in a televised player draft that saw Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan emerge as number one pick.
After months of talking and plenty of divided opinions, the new 100-ball domestic competition took shape in a live televised event where each of the city-based franchises filled out their rosters from a field of 571 names, in a studio setting that looked more like a prime-time quiz show than a traditional selection meeting.
But for all the showbiz trappings, Gayle’s A-list status was not enough to earn him one of the 96 contracts dished out on the night.
With Dwayne Bravo and Lasith Malinga also failing to draw interest, that means the tournament will take place without Twenty20 cricket’s top run-scorer and its two leading wicket-takers, all of whom had entered at the top reserve price of £125,000.
Instead it was a member of the next generation, 21-year-old mystery spinner Rashid, who was widely touted as the prime pick and he was duly awarded the honour of being chosen first by Trent Rockets.
Lancashire all-rounder Liam Livingstone was the only Englishman to earn the maximum payday, grabbed in the opening round by Birmingham Phoenix, but Sam Billings, Phil Salt, Liam Dawson, Tom Abell, Ravi Bopara and Lewis Gregory all commanded six-figure fees.
Of the 13 individuals who landed the £125,000, almost half were Australian with Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc heading to Welsh Fire, while David Warner (Southern Brave), Aaron Finch (Northern Superchargers), Glenn Maxwell (London Spirit) and D’arcy Short (Trent Rockets) also cashed in.
Andre Russell was the day’s second pick, by Southampton’s Southern Brave, with Sunil Narine and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman also among the highest earners.
Manchester Originals – coached by former Australia batsman Simon Katich – made the two most surprising early calls by investing a combined £250,000 in 40-year-old leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who had a base price of just £60,000, and the relatively unheralded Dane Vilas.
Two of England’s World Cup-winning XI were available, Mark Wood paired with Lord’s-based London Spirit on a £75,000 deal and Liam Plunkett making £50,000 with Welsh Fire.
On a domestic level the competition for places left a handful of notable current or former England cricketers on the outside, including Olly Stone, Samit Patel, Jamie Overton, Sam Hain, Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke and Steven Finn.
Kieron Pollard of the West Indies also finds himself at a loose end having set a £100,000 base.
The likes of Luke Wright, Craig Overton, Laurie Evans, Jade Dernbach, Riki Wessels and Luke Fletcher – all experienced short-form campaigners – must have been fearing the same fate but were chosen in the final round at the minimum £30,000 bracket.
Shane Warne, head coach of London Spirit, suggested Gayle, Malinga and Bravo were left unsold because they had overreached with their reserves.
“I think they priced themselves wrong,” he said. “If they’d gone in at £100,000 and not £125,000 I think they’d have been picked up.”
Northern Superchargers counterpart Darren Lehmann added: “It was a tough one, they’ve been superstars for so long but then the next generation is knocking on the door...you’ve only got two picks at £125,000.”
“Oh yes, 100 per cent. Every game will be a big game, with so many people watching and playing against the very best in the world,” he said.
“I think we look like the best team on paper as we’ve got all bases covered: power, spin and Ben Foakes as keeper – he’s the best in England.”
Smith, who scored runs relentlessly in the recent Ashes series, appeared via videolink from Sydney to voice his approval of an enterprise that has been greeted with mixed opinions at home.
“It’s going to be exciting, the first ever 100-ball comp and I’m looking forward to joining Jonny Bairstow and Mitchell Starc,” he said.
“It’s a bit different and it’ll be a learning curve for the first few games but it’s exciting.”
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