Lawrence Booth, editor of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, has called The Hundred an “almighty punt” and has questioned whether England needs a fourth format.
Writing in his editor’s notes in the 2019 edition of the cricketer’s bible, which was released today, Booth has criticised the ECB’s bid to “stake cricket’s wellbeing on a form of the game played nowhere else in the world.”
“The Hundred hung over the English game like the sword of Damocles, suspended only by the conviction of a suited few,” Booth writes. “Some preferred a modern analogy: this was cricket’s Brexit, an unnecessary gamble that had overshadowed all else, gone over budget and would end in tears.
“But the analogy was imperfect: where Brexit had plenty of advocates, it was difficult to find anyone beyond a small group within the ECB’s offices who believed that cricket – its fixture list already unfathomable – needed a fourth format.”
Even if The Hundred does prove to be a success, Booth is concerned that the other formats of the game will suffer, and believes it will take more than a few soundbites and PR stunts to convince the cricketing public that this is the road to a better future.
“It is hard to be sanguine about stuffing another quart into the pint pot,” he adds. “Even if The Hundred succeeds – and the early signs were not good, with projected audiences of around 12,000 in stadiums capable of holding twice as many – then what of the other formats?
“Twenty20 will take a hit, years after the world agreed it was the way ahead. The 50-over competition, its fixtures clashing with the new tournament, will smack of the Second XI, just when England have become good at one-day cricket. And the Championship will be shoved deeper into the cupboard under the stairs. Then there’s the growing divide between the eight counties who will stage the competition and the ten who won’t. Worcestershire’s Daryl Mitchell, who doubles as chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, spoke for many: ‘If it doesn’t work, then we’re all in trouble.’
“If only someone at the ECB had been on hand last year to explain why they thought it a good idea to stake cricket’s wellbeing on a form of the game played nowhere else in the world. It’s true that this approach worked in 2003, when Twenty20’s arrival met with scepticism. Yet these grand schemes come off once a generation. And the public have to be convinced over time, not drip-fed careless soundbites.”