English cricketers have been left shocked and confused by the ECB’s radical proposal to shelve T20 cricket for their new competition from 2020.
As few as three current players were aware of the plans for “The Hundred”, which is the working title for the ECB’s new 100-ball format. Eoin Morgan and Heather Knight, England’s white-ball captains, were consulted on the plans for “The Hundred”, while Daryl Mitchell, the chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, was presented with the idea three weeks ago.
The rest were kept in the dark in fear of leaks, with even PCA county reps unaware until moments before the ECB released the news on Thursday. Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, emailed England’s contracted internationals shortly after the release went out, assuring them that the new competition “will be built on expert insight”. There is much consultation left to do on a concept currently short on detail.
Standard Sport has spoken to more than a dozen professional cricketers, all of whom have been left baffled by the concept in one way or another. The idea of a 10-ball over was met with universal bemusement, and players queried the ECB’s claim that it will “add a fresh tactical dimension”. The early player feedback to ECB is understood to have noted how few bowlers would want to bowl such an over.
One England player described the mood in his county dressing room as “uproar”, while some internationals said they wanted to speak out but feared censure if they did.
Some county cricketers already had serious misgivings about the competition – and that was when they thought they would be playing T20, a format they know and trust. Some domestic players, such as Sussex’s Luke Wells and Durham’s Chris Rushworth, have spoken out on Twitter.
Most players look to the success of the Big Bash League and the IPL and wonder exactly what T20 cricket has done wrong (both as a cricket format and means of drawing new supporters into the game), and bemoaned the influence of marketeers on the game.
Countdown clocks are under consideration, while Clare Connor, the director of women’s cricket, hinted that new scoreboard layouts could make the game easier to follow for the uninitiated. Broadcasters are said to be very keen as matches beginning at 2.30 and 6.30pm should be completed in three hours.
While some players were disappointed not to hear from the PCA, it is to Mitchell’s credit that he expressed surprise to ESPNcricinfo that the ECB described all the meetings they have had as receiving the idea “enthusiastically”.
"I represent 420 players," said Mitchell, who began consulting his members yesterday. "Until we've canvassed their views, it's too early to say. But I was a bit taken aback by the proposals when I first heard them. I'm more open-minded now, a couple of weeks later, having given them time to sink in."
County bosses, who were presented with the idea on Thursday in a meeting described by one as being “like something out of W1A” [the farcical mockumentary about the BBC], were rather more enthusiastic than the players, even if many were sceptical about the concept itself. The presentations made were felt by some to have been brazen that the changes were for marketing not cricketing reasons.
Most CEOs were shocked, but some counties, among them Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, were aware of the plans due to their representatives’ presence on planning committees and boards, as the competition has been under consideration for as long as six months. County officials spoke of allowing the T20 Blast, which remains alongside the new competition, “space” and “a relief” that the two tournaments would not step on each others’ toes. Some even liked the idea itself.
One suggested that the new format meant players would find the choice between county cricket and the new competition more tricky, because 100-ball cricket will not be played at international level or in overseas competition. For the counties, the more different the new competition, the better.
Richard Goatley, the Middlesex chief executive, explained why he and his club’s members should be pleased with the news.
“It’s good news for county cricket,” he said. “They have come up with an interesting new concept that differentiates between a new tournament and the existing T20 Blast. It means we can sustain red and white ball county cricket for our members. This has given us a much better chance of safeguarding county cricket than a tournament that would have been in competition with our own.”