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Eoin Morgan: 100-ball will be cricket in its simplest form

HUW TURBERVILL: Eoin Morgan was reportedly one of only three players to be consulted on the new format by the ECB, along with Professional Cricketers’ Association chairman Daryl Mitchell, and England women’s captain Heather Knight

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Eoin Morgan has defended The Hundred

England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan has tried to sell the 100-ball idea as an easy-to-understand concept, but failed to dispel the perception that the concept behind the tournament is purely to save time.

Director of England Cricket Andrew Strauss found himself on a sticky wicket earlier in the week when he said the proposed format for the new tournament from 2020 was “aimed at mums and kids”.

Now Morgan has said existing T20 can be “complicated”, and the concept of 15 six-ball overs plus one 10-ball finale is an attempt “to break down [cricket] into its simplest form.”

Morgan was reportedly one of only three players to be consulted on the new format by the ECB, along with Professional Cricketers’ Association chairman Daryl Mitchell, and England women’s captain Heather Knight.

“It sounds different – like a good, viable product to sell to people outside of cricket,” said Morgan. “I have a lot of friends outside of cricket who would never come to a cricket match, but they have already said they are enjoying the noise around this, because it is upsetting people who already come to a game. That is the point of the product.

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The ECB are trying to attract a new audience

"We are trying to grow the game. Participation levels have been going down for quite a while. We need to do something different to change the reputation of the sport and the perceived barriers that need to be broken down in order for you play the sport. If we continue to stay rigid and not change anything for a long period of time, the sport will die. It’s not designed to kill off cricket. I absolutely love cricket. It won’t kill off me.

“People hate change. It would be very easy for us to sit here and say yeah, Test cricket is great, 50 overs is OK, but T20 is just something we just don’t talk about, that’s going through the roof, and everybody wants to watch it, but yet we don’t do anything about it.

“So the new tournament – however many balls it might be – I do enjoy the idea of it, because one of the most complicated things, when you come to a cricket ground and you don’t know what’s going on, and you look at a scoreboard for an indication, with so many numbers and names on the board, you don’t actually know what’s going on, so you eliminate that equation and you break it down to its simplest form.”

"I have friends outside of cricket who would never come to a match, but they have already said they enjoy the noise around this, because it is upsetting people who already come to a match"

Morgan seems to be alluding to the notion that the scoreboard for the second innings will just say number of runs required from number of balls remaining.

“Getting them to the ground is pretty tricky. A child between seven and 11, tell them you are going to a game that lasts five days, or six hours, or even three to an extent, if they don’t enjoy it for the first 20 minutes, there’s a good chance they’ll never come again, or want to leave straightaway. If the person who has brought them hasn’t already educated them about it or created a fad about it…”

When asked why a concept of 15 six-ball overs plus one 10 is easier to understand than 20 six-ball overs, however, it appeared to come back to the duration of innings.

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Director of England Cricket Andrew Strauss

While The Cricketer understands that the BBC did not pressure the ECB to come up with a way of condensing an innings to 75 minutes or under, that was at the forefront of the ECB’s thoughts.

“I think the complication of the game can be off-putting to certain people,” said Morgan. “One of the biggest opportunities for this tournament is access to people’s living rooms for people who don’t have Sky Sports, so just terrestrial TV – so if you can’t sell it to them, they will change the channel. I don’t know if the BBC needs two and a half hours. I think it has to be entertaining, and simple to follow, in order for it to sell.”

So does it come down to brevity? When Morgan if it was impossible to bowl 20 overs in 75 minutes, he replied: “Hmmm. Yes.”

The lingering sense about a week after this news broke, is that the more noise cricket traditionalists make in protest, the architects of this novel concept will believe even more that they are on the right track. It’s cricket Jim, but not as we know it…

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