The entirety of the United Kingdom needed a ray of hope, a tiny piece of good news to cling on to after enduring the mother of all heartbreaks at Wembley on Sunday, and the ECB’s announcement on Monday served as an antidote to the poison that was the Euro 2020 final.
Indeed, after advertising The Hundred to no less than 31 million people during the half-time of the Grand Finale against Italy, the ECB, yesterday, announced the revolutionary competition’s playing conditions to cheer up a nation that spent no less than 24 hours sobbing.
The timing, honestly, couldn’t have been more perfect: not only did they throw The Hundred as a lifejacket to millions of fans who were drowning in the river of sorrow that was Football, and were desperately looking for a getaway, they also did it at a time when the stocks of Football in the country plummeted to an all-time low, thanks to the vile, disgusting and hooliganistic behaviour of a section of fans. After yesterday, Parents in England would not just think twice before making their child footballers, but would also ideally not want their son or daughter to become ‘one of those fans’ that disgraced the entire nation. So in many ways, the ECB pulled off a masterstroke: honestly, they picked the perfect time to shove their groundbreaking invention up the 'non-viewers’ throat.
The full set of rules can be found here and, unsurprisingly, it has left a lot of purists enraged. But, frankly speaking, who cares about the purists and gatekeepers? The Hundred was invented with the idea of catering to casuals and non-viewers - to drag them into this boring sport - and you’d be lying if you said some of the inventions are not captivating. White cards, ‘balls’ instead ‘overs’, ‘five’ instead of ‘six’ - are you not entertained?
These are interesting innovations, of course, but there still exists a feeling that the ECB were a tad too soft with the changes. I mean yes, the essence of the game has been modified slightly, but honestly, there is still every chance that a casual fan might turn off the television after watching a few balls. I mean, think about it: which non-fan is going to be aroused by a play-and-miss? Or which kid is going to jump with jubilation looking at an off-spinner bowl dots in the middle part of the innings? There are still archaic, boring elements of the game present in The Hundred that, quite honestly, need to be done away with in order to capture the global market.
SportsCafe is no ECB, but we have quite a few suggestions that could turn The Hundred into ‘the most watched spectacle’ not just in cricket, but in all of the sports.
Introduce live coverage of an intense, 30-minute football match between the two teams prior to the start of their cricket clash
Let’s face it - no one, absolutely NO ONE, is interested in the pre-match build-up for cricket matches. So here’s a suggestion: why not replace it with a 30-minute Football match between the two teams? Not only will this be super fun, but it will also feel like home to the target audience, the majority of whom are football fans. Here they can ‘choose’ their favourite teams and players based on footballing skills, and continue supporting them once the cricket starts. Yes, Rory Burns’ injury last year led to the ban of pre-match Football, but if your players are going to injure themselves by slipping in the dressing room, surely it’s not actually the sport that is to blame?
Penalty shootouts (using cricket balls) to decide the match in case of a tie
The ECB have ‘super five’ to decide tied matches, but that’s, again, a meh way to decide the winner. Again, there’s nothing more interesting, nerve-wracking and entertaining than a penalty shootout, so why not make it a part of The Hundred - with a slight cricketing twist? Instead of using Football, make the players shoot the actual white cricket ball, with the wicket-keeper serving as the goalkeeper. This way, you don’t even have to worry about a second tie as sudden death will anyway inevitably settle the matter.
Replace Booze Bars in the vicinity of the stadium with Candy Stalls
Look, no one wants 30-something drunk men ruining matches of cricket, particularly when the target audience is women and children, so why not make the environment more kid-friendly by banning alcohol and replacing booze with candy bars/stalls? You could also have commentators dress up as superheroes and cartoon characters in order to have the kids hooked to the television. Maybe even get them singing rhymes once every five overs. Surely it can’t be worse than the cliched phrases that these folks with the mic prattle.
Replace the toss with Rap Battle
If I’m a casual viewer, would I be interested in seeing the match referee toss the coin to decide who bats or bowls first? No, absolutely not. But at the same time, would I be interested in seeing Joe Root and Eoin Morgan indulge in a Rap Battle 30 minutes before the match? Abso-effing-lutely. Moreover, this involves skill, unlike the toss, which is pure luck. Eliminating the toss factor could also help the ECB woo Virat Kohli. So all we see here is a win-win situation.
Decide Player of the Match via Twitter
Giving the ‘Player of the Match’ award to the best performer is, honestly, quite boring. Commentators are usually entrusted with the job and, more often than not, they botch it by showing a clear bias for batters. But here’s an alternate suggestion - use Twitter to decide the POTM. No, not using polls or votes, something even better.
Get all 22 players in the match to Tweet out a match report post the game. Not through their own account but through the Hundred’s official account (for fairness purposes). Whoever’s match report gets the most number of Retweets will walk away with the POTM award. This way, you’re organically increasing The Hundred’s reach as people’s Twitter timeline would be filled with RT’s of The Hundred.
To make things spicier, players whose match report get ‘ratioed’ (look it up in case you don’t know what it means) will have to serve a one-match ban.
Introduce Green Cards, not just White
What better way to get the whole country watching than literally putting UK Citizenship on the line? The introduction of White Cards is weird, but Green Cards? That will have the potential to become the single greatest cricketing invention.
Here’s how it works: Every team can field one non-English player vying to get UK Citizenship and play for England. Should that player score a century (or) take a five-wicket haul, then he/she must immediately be handed the Green Card (UK Citizenship) at the end of the match by the Prime Minister himself. Basically using The Hundred to strengthen England’s white-ball depth, just in a different way.
1) Inculcate gully cricket rules. Off-side exclusive scoring, one-bounce-one-hand, current (run out) can all help spice up the contest.
2) Ask batting sides to bat 10% of their innings (10/100 balls) with the bat flipped. Why? Why not?
3) Play the final at Wembley. Lord’s might be the home of cricket, but you are not really catering to the cricket fanbase, are you? Why not play the final at a venue with a much larger capacity, one that the casuals know of.