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HUW TURBERVILL: When The Hundred was unveiled to an unsuspecting public last April, county involvement was expected to be at a minimum, however, the first-class county chief executives are now expected to be running the new teams
When The Hundred was unveiled to an unsuspecting public last April, county involvement was expected to be at a minimum. To illustrate how far the tectonic players have shifted, however, the first-class county chief executives are now expected to be running the new teams.
There will be eight teams in the ECB’s new competition, starting next year. The so-far unnamed sides will play at Lord’s, The Oval (as it stands, however The Times have reported the south London stadium could be dropped), Old Trafford, Edgbaston, the Ageas Bowl, Trent Bridge, Headingley and Cardiff.
The Cricketer understands that the side based at Lord’s will be run by Guy Lavender, chief executive of MCC who, of course, own the venue, plus Richard Goatley and Derek Bowden, his counterparts at Middlesex and Essex respectively. A source has also confirmed that at least one independent person will be a director for each team. This board will pick and sign the coaching staff, and they in turn will select the players in this autumn’s draft.
Although Lavender will chair the decision-making for the Lord’s team, it is not a given that the host CEO will fulfil this role for all eight. And again it is believed that while this does not mean that Middlesex and Essex players will automatically play for the Lord’s side, for example, it would be a surprise if that was not generally the case.
Lord's will host one of the eight sides
While The Cricketer does not yet know which county chiefs will be allocated to all the teams, apparently there will be a logical look to it. It could be surmised that The Oval side will be administered by the chief executives of Surrey and Kent, therefore; the Ageas Bowl will involve Hampshire and Sussex; the Trent Bridge team Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and so on.
Initially the counties were surprised that the tournament was going to be a 100-ball-an-innings affair, after everyone had believed that it would be T20. There was also some scepticism from the shires about the spend on the new tournament, and concern that they were not being listened to. A series of meetings last autumn allayed many fears however, and the result is that the ECB and the counties are now seemingly working in harmony.
The appointment of Gordon Hollins as managing director of county cricket shows that the ECB are determined to assure clubs that they have a healthy future and are not going to be eased out at the expense of the new sides.
“We voted against (well, it wasn’t The Hundred then),” Goatley told The Cricketer. “The club felt we could achieve what was sought with the existing teams. We could have had the mega show with the existing brands and organisations. That might be because we are in the London bubble where we get full crowds. I would like to have had a team called Middlesex, playing at Lord’s, coached by Stuart Law.
"That wasn’t the view of the game more widely, so there we are. I want it to succeed. I cannot criticise the ECB for the consultation process. We were heard, we voted. The majority of the game supported the tournament. Once it is in existence I cannot see any good out of The Hundred failing. I hope they do a top job producing a good tournament. Each county will get £1.3m a year from 2020–24. If income goes up we will be reimbursed more. Hopefully they will have a fantastic product to sell from 2025.”
Will the new competition captivate crowds?
Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket, said: “I want to get on with it. The people who have made the decisions have done their research, they are not trying to mess the game up, they believe this is the right direction to go. You can break down the competition and question some of the things in it, but good people are trying to make the best decisions in the interests of the game.”
The ECB essentially went for a relaunch of The Hundred earlier this year, after publicity in 2018 that the tournament was not aimed at existing fans. They have allocated £180m to it over five years, with the competition designed to appeal to both “cricket fans” and a “broader audience”, according to chief executive Tom Harrison.
“There may be some requirement to do some mythbusting here,” he said at a meeting between the ECB’s stakeholders in Millbank. “The new competition is designed to appeal to cricket fans first and foremost, but then it’s a broader audience.”
An online poll of more than 2,000 readers of The Cricketer found 87 per cent opposed to it, but AB de Villiers told the BBC: “I’m sure it would be very well supported. I would love to be a part of it.”
Harrison, presenting the ECB strategy for 2020–2024, expressed a desire to see cricket “shed the tag of elitism and privilege” and embrace a wider community across England and Wales.
This article was published in the March edition of The Cricketer - the home of the best cricket analysis and commentary, covering the international, county, women's and amateur game
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