A Hundred ways to attract new crowds to cricket games




A NEW format of cricket launched by the English cricket board hopes to grow the game’s existing audience in England and reach those who don’t grasp its rules.

The Hundred, set to be launched in the summer of 2020, will see 100 balls bowled by each team, with 15 traditional six-ball overs and a single 10-ball over to complete an innings, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced last Friday (20).

Eight teams are set to take part, and the idea is to keep it simple and accessible, allowing the ECB to “talk to an audience who doesn’t necessarily know or understand cricket”, said Sanjay Patel, ECB chief commercial officer, and managing director for the new competition.

ECB’s research into the existing cricket market found that one of the biggest barriers to people com­ing to watch matches was the game’s complexity, with many saying they did not understand the game.

Patel’s hope is the new, shorter format will draw families keen for an evening out. Typically, a Twen­ty20 encounter lasts about three hours, but with The Hundred matches being 40 balls shorter, game time will be cut to around two and-a-half hours.

He sees The Hundred as competing against family leisure activities, whether it is going to the cinema or a visit to Legoland.

“We need people to think of The Hundred as a credible option,” Patel said.

While the cricket will, of course, be central to the tournament, the entertainment around it will play just as important a role in drawing spectators to the grounds, he added.

“We want to bring people into our grounds, we want to give them a great time, so they come back,” Patel said.

“Also, if somebody doesn’t understand or know a lot about cricket, I still want them to come to this competition and have a good time, and the way to do that is by providing entertainment around the crick­et. It needs to feel like an event and then there’s cricket in the middle of that event.”

ECB members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new city-based competition last year, with matches to be played in a five-week window in the middle of the summer.

Patel said The Hundred will be played in the last week of July and the month of August, as organisers target families on their school holidays.

“This is 100-ball cricket, a simple approach to reach a new generation. Based on 15 traditional six-ball overs, the other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension,” Patel said. “Crucially, this will also help differentiate this competition from Vitality Blast [ECB’s domestic T20 event] and other T20 competi­tions worldwide, maintaining our game’s history of successful innovation.”

Southampton, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester, Cardiff and Nottingham have been se­lected as venues for the tournament, with Lord’s and the Oval each playing host to a London-based team. Sky and the BBC will show and promote the new format under a five-year deal from 2020.

Patel acknowledged there were differences in attitudes to cricket between Asian and British audiences.

“What we do know is that the Asian audience in the UK don’t necessarily relate to the current ECB competitions that we put on. Obviously, a lot of them support India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but they don’t relate to the domestic competitions.

“So we think this new competition, which is com­pletely neutral, it’s got eight new brands. One thing we can do to really to target this Asian audience and bring them back into our cricket ground or bring them into our cricket competition rather than prob­ably just watching the IPL [Indian Premier League] or India play in the global tournaments,” Patel told Eastern Eye last Friday.

He said the ECB was clear in wanting to differenti­ate itself from the IPL. “We are creating our own version for this country. The other thing is they are played at different times of the year,” he said.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will be part of the new tournament. And despite the shorter format of The Hundred, Patel is confident the game will al­low nurturing of cricket talent.

“It’s a shorter format of T20, but it’s still long enough as a game. I think it will force people to think about their skills in a slightly different way, maybe. A ball is being bowled… so the skills of cricket remain.”

In a statement, ECB’s CEO Tom Harrison said: “This is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game.

“Our game has a history of innovation and we have a duty to look for future growth for the health and sustainability of the whole game.

“There are 18 first-class counties playing red and white ball cricket at our core, and these counties and competitions will be supported, promoted and ben­efit from the game’s growth.”