The Hundred, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s brainchild, has certainly been the talk of the town, literally and figuratively and in the public relations world, the tournament has excelled. However, elsewhere, it has certainly taken away the playing opportunity for several counties.
In short, the tournament had the fans divided, several ones tilted towards it not existing in the first place, with several hundred reasons for the same and the others, obliterating the box-office to make the most viewed cricketing event in England. At the end of the day, both these sides have to co-exist in the making of the competition and it has certainly reeled the eyes of more than expected.
“In their quest for Eldorado, English cricket may have saddled itself with fool's gold,” stated George Dobell in his piece, the guardians of the so-called English cricketing galaxy had painted the entire town red. Disgusts in the face of faithfuls, taking away the opportunities of several counties, The Hundred certainly got off to the wrong foot. It certainly had an impact on the Royal London One-Day cup, leaving several counties withering away with their second-string sides.
Ideally, The Hundred squeezed itself ahead of both the premier 50-over domestic competition and the T20 Blast, two of which were held sacred by the faithful. Naturally, the tantrums, the tomatoes and the waving of the white handkerchiefs were warranted, with the counties being directly attacked.
And the tale goes so on and so forth, The Hundred as a competition has certainly destroyed everything that the English cricket was known for and most definitely made a mockery of the fundamental system from where its success has come from - the counties. But the competition has been far away from what it was predicted to be - boring, lifeless, thwacking of the bowlers and single-blade domination from the batsmen. Some even echoed it to be the new T10 league, where the bowlers were getting hammered. But none of that happened, at least thus far.
Now, largely that’s the definition and ethos of T20 cricket, from where this entire concept has been articulated. The Hundred was meant to be all of that - boring, lifeless and domination for batsmen - but it became none of it. In fact, it has become a competition that certainly has put some new and profound interest in the country, revitalising the status of the game from being restricted to the gentlemen, in Lord’s and the other venues to the regular crowd - you and me.
While The Hundred has certainly hit the nail on its head in their intended market, the tournament’s start has been nothing short of exceptional. Even if you ignore the largely overly enthusiastic and dramatic crowd blazing away to the songs of Becky Hill amongst others.
But interspersed with several highs were the performances in the centre stage, the tournament certainly provided an opportunity for several cricketers, either on the back of a poor form or withering displays. 16-ball 29 from Manchester Originals' Harmanpreet Kaur kicked off the dazzling display and then walked in the Oval Invincibles' Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp. Sam Billings’ masterful innings, Tom Curran’s new-found consistency topped with Sunil Narine’s wizardry, the tournament certainly kicked off on the right note for the people who needed a rightful opportunity to turn their withers into twitter storms.
On Friday, it was Zak Crawley, with a blistering 64, combined with some late tonking from age-less Ravi Bopara against a consistently improving Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali and Adam Milne. In short, the tournament thus far has hit the right notes for players who want an opportunity to showcase their skills.
It was supposed to be always a gimmicky tournament but certainly, from a playing field perspective, it has been everything except gimmicky. Solid surfaces, batters and bowlers have had the same set of advantages with a need for the captains to be tip-toed and lip-tight with their strategies. Set of five balls, set of ten, the captain has to consistently note it down like they are in a courtroom and think as quickly as if they are in a space threatening national security.
The tournament was certainly viewed as a flash in the pan but as the day progresses, it has far more shown the calibre of a level playing field, with an endless opportunity for development. The list quite goes on, with Benny Howell, Tymal Mills, Blake Cullen, Emily Arlott, Issy Wong, Abtaha Maqsood amongst several others who are out there to prove a point. It doesn’t quite restrict itself to the provers but also the movers, the Dani Wyatts, the Joe Roots, the Katherine Brunts and others, who are all out there to prove something or the other.
Once again, on Saturday, in Leeds, the tournament found a new hero, Jemimah Rodrigues, the wunderkind who withered away in the recent times reduced to the burrows. The scores, the entire scenario was against Jemimah, her recent form didn’t quite help the cause. There was an eerie sense of uncertainty, especially after she had run out the in-form batter Laura Wolvaardt. At 19/4, the Northern Superchargers had their wires plugged out and sockets switched off but on any other day, the Welsh Fire could have walked away with a win but not on Saturday.
"I like that responsibility, when the team wants you to play a certain role and take up that challenge," she said in the lead-up to the Superchargers' opening match.
Before the contest, she had not just assumed responsibility but stated that she relishes every bit of it, which intially made her a hypocrite as she stood there at the non-striker’s end, looking at the scorecard, which read 19/4. She definitely liked the responsibility before, in 2019, for Yorkshire Diamonds but could she like it here, in Leeds, a venue known to drive out miracles? Of course, she could, that’s where the entire narrative of the competition plays out - it brings out the best amidst the struggles of it all.
“He makes all things beautiful in His time,” she posted on Twitter, after somehow driving a war against time and calibre, with a 43-ball 92, that certainly showed that the wunderkind wasn’t after all overly hyped. She definitely thanked the lord but more importantly, would have thanked The Hundred for this knock, which certainly brought her back in the mainstream, with an opportunity to seize it all.
"Sometimes you need that because it's when the best comes out of you. I'm sure Wolfie and Laura Kimmince will feel the same,” she said of the pressure and when she walked back to the dressing room, certainly not just Wolvaardt or Kimmince but the entire world would have been struck by this brilliance.
It brought the best in her and so did the competition help in bringing the best out of the others. The Hundred has taken away many opportunities at many avenues but most certainly it has provided it elsewhere for the players to seize, and it has just started!