By: Chinmay Vaidya
The Hundred has finally arrived.
ECB's long-awaited domestic cricket competition is finally getting up and running. The Hundred will likely replace the Vitality Blast as England's top domestic league and it is taking conventional cricket for a spin.
As you can probably guess, each inning will consist of 100 deliveries instead of the 120 in a typical T20 match. Here's where it gets odd. Each bowler can bowl up to 20 balls in the innings in increments of five or 10 balls at a time. Players will change ends after 10 balls are bowled. This will lead to different strategies and bowler management from your typical T20 match. It'll also likely create some awkward situations initially with players used to an over being six deliveries instead of five or 10.
There were significant conversations on both sides regarding The Hundred, but the player lineup looks outstanding. Aside from the Indian powerhouse names, the rest of the world's stars are set to compete. On a surface level, The Hundred is a cheap innovation of T20 domestic cricket. But this competition was never designed to be just another league.
Differentiation is the key to success when attempting to draw viewers and England has surprisingly struggled to create excitement around cricket, despite the national team's thundering success over the last two years. That could change with the new format. Although the county associations won't stick in this league, people will tune in. The format has intentionally been modified to attract a new audience, not just bring in the old cricket fans.
The Hundred will also allow England's young players to showcase themselves against top international talent, an opportunity they wouldn't have gotten in the IPL, BBL or CPL. This will further help the sport grow in the country with locals coming to cheer on hometown heroes making a name for themselves. There will be at least one player every year fans don't see coming. These domestic leagues can springboard a cricketer to international fame. The Hundred gives England's youngsters that opportunity.
The first Hundred player draft took place Oct. 20 and the eight teams have filled out their roster. There will be changes as players find out their availability, but there is already some shakeup. Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga, two all-time greats in the shortest format of the game, weren't selected in the initial process. They'll likely find a way to get in as the tournament nears.
The competition will be heavily scrutinized in its initial season and that's good for the sport. People will want to see whether this format is actually fun or just cheap innovation. The Hundred is not conventional cricket by design, but it should attract large viewership and create brilliant moments just the same. Time will tell if the format is here to stay, but the competition has already done its job without a single ball being bowled.