Does The Hundred Simplify Anything?
One of the aims of The Hundred, we are told, is to ‘simplify’ cricket – to open the game up to those left bewildered by the mere mention of a googly, or confused by what fielding at silly mid-off means.
It’s a laudable aim. Cricket is indeed a strange beast to the uninitiated, something I can attest to having recently tried to explain the sport to a Russian colleague – but can The Hundred actually simplify the game?
At its most basic level, the format itself is pretty simple – the first team gets 100-balls to score as many runs as they can, the second team then gets a maximum of 100-balls to score more.
Having a scoreboard display a ‘countdown’, from 100 down to zero, creates its own element of drama too – the ticking clock effect.
Bowling ten-balls from one end, then switching to bowl ten from the other (then back again) is straight forward too – albeit how that differs from switching every six balls is open to debate.
Here’s where the facade of ‘simplification’ starts to wear.Embed from Getty Images
It may be that one bowler will bowl all ten balls from one end, or it could be that two bowlers will deliver five-balls each – either is fine in terms of ‘ability to understand what’s going on’ – but does it truly differ from ‘that bowler delivers six balls from one end, then another bowler delivers six from the other’?
If anything it risks being more confusing if a bowler is ‘suddenly’ bowling 10-balls in a row rather than 5.
Ultimately, it’s a time saver though, something that could have been brought in to T20 cricket arguably, but I digress…
So deliveries are deliveries (or balls are balls, if you prefer) and we still change which end the deliveries are coming from after an allotted number of balls.
The bowlers will be the same too – Harry Gurney, Rashid Khan, Anya Shrubsole, and so on.
Same bowlers, same actions….same problems explaining Rashid Khan’s standard leg-break, his googly, his (alleged) four-other variations of the leg spinner, and how his style of bowling differs to, say, Moeen Ali (should he feature) and his off-breaks.
By that same token, the batsmen will not differ greatly either – Alex Hales, Tammy Beaumont, maybe Andre Russell. All talented, all trying to achieve the same thing they do in T20 (or any other form of cricket really).
If Beaumont breaks out a switch hit, the same need for explanation may still be required.
Are we to assume that field placements will be given new names? Or is that going to over complicate things further? An argument could be made for either.
What about the ‘wicket’? Will that be ‘rebranded’?
There’s always the commercial case for the Dulux Paint Strip one supposes, but how much simplification can the on-field action actually undergo?Embed from Getty Images
The scoreboard is one area for change – less clutter – but these are almost superficial changes; they matter in a sense, but do not fundamentally alter the game itself, which, at its core, has been one of the barriers to wider interest if we are frank – it’s still a funny old sport if you’re not familiar with it already (and even if you are…).
Real, serious fundamental change is extremely hard to bring about. Get it wrong, and you risk compromising one of the other primary aims of the tournament: to act as a gateway to cricket as a whole.
Try to use The Hundred as a way to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and the transition to other formats risks becoming awkward – it’s not insurmountable, but ultimately feels like it goes against the grain of what The Hundred is trying to achieve in the first place by ‘simplifying’ the game.
It may take away one barrier, but create another.
The ECB wish to revive wider interest in cricket via The Hundred – to use city names rather than counties (albeit Warwickshire/Birmingham already went there…), to shorten the game for an audience with (we are told) decreasing attention spans and a desire to watch on iPads rather than traditional TV – but how much can you really change?
On the field, will The Hundred really be different to the game we already know?