Don Topley: Cricket is slowly dying, so let’s get behind the new 100-ball concept!
- Credit: Archant
In his latest column, Don Topley discusses the new 100-ball cricket format – and gives his verdict on the idea.
In two years’ time, English cricket will have a new short format competition which will try to attract a new audience – ‘100-ball’ cricket.
For many years, I have supported the need for a superior T20 domestic competition to stand alongside the IPL and Australia’s Big Bash. This newly announced, new format competition has totally surprised me.
The ‘Big Bash’ in Australia has secured a new group of spectators. I witnessed four BBL games last winter in Australia. Families and in particular mums and kids are fully involved, and they come in their droves for a family night out.
Sending WhatsApps, selfies, and interacting with their mates on the other side of the ground, is where we are today – social media is extremely important and is fully embraced by the organisers.
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Crowds of over 30,000 can connect with high speed stadium wifi on arrival. They constantly receive updates, news and info via social media.
It’s true, of couurse, that their modern stadia are far superior to our old limited County Grounds and the out-dated experience offered.
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The weather in Australia too is a huge advantage and how challenged would we be here in the UK when the blocked-off competition coincides with an Atlantic low-pressure system offering a week of drizzle, mizzle and low temperatures? It’s a risk but a necessary one for the future of the game.
This 100-ball game (16.4 overs) has been created to be short enough for terrestrial television. Not having cricket on mainstream television has been hugely harmful for the game – fact!
It has been suggested that BBC (probably BBC2) will broadcast about 10 of the 40 games which, therefore, need to end in under 3 hours for television schedules – probably 6.30pm to 9.30pm – while the rest will probably be on Sky.
The current T20 games are becoming longer, with thoughtful tactics and ‘time outs’ but I was expecting a similar game which mid-week evening cricketers have played for years – 15 x eight ball overs, with eight overs straight off and then seven from the other end.
It would also demand limited run-ups just as we did in the 1970s/80s – remember the John Player League on a Sunday afternoon? That too had to fit into BBC scheduling and worked; there was initial shock at this limited over competition and the demand for it to fit into television scheduling. It ended up being revered!
My preference would have been to reduce the time of the same 120 ball competition (as T20) by 25/30 minutes by having the old-fashioned 8 ball overs and not changing ends, which takes time.
Then, limit the bowlers run ups to ten metres. I am sure it would work and importantly, many can still identify with it.
The ECB, through Andrew Strauss, are leading this revolution and want a simpler format. So, 100-Ball is what has been decided, with fewer number of teams (8) to have a better-quality product, which our current 18 county system simply dilutes.
Only the very best 96 English cricketers will be involved, not the 400 or so professionals amongst the 18 counties. The very best overseas talent will join us too for the short five-week competition.
The ECB’s new format has been severely criticised but, whilst I was surprised, I remain open minded and enthusiastic to give it a chance.
Cricket is slowly dying, with lower participation numbers and fewer people really knowing anything about the game.
Simply, we cannot remain with the status quo, as only the limited few watch the longer form of domestic cricket.
This new competition through television revenue should keep the game afloat and allow the domestic four day game to be played - that’s the financial reality!
Many older County members (who are unlikely to be about in ten years) are stubborn and won’t watch this new competition – but it’s not designed for them, they will still have Test matches, some four day cricket and possibly the 50-over.
The ECB want – and ultimately cricket needs – a new audience.
Let’s try and embrace this for the game’s future but here’s a warning – we still have two long years before we see the first ball bowled in the 100-ball game..... so anything could still happen!