Thursday, May 03, 2018

ECB’s 100 ball a side competion idea is bonkers - and their rationale for it is disingenuous

The rationale for the new competition and new format is apparently that it will bring a new audience to cricket. Spectators (and TV viewers) will come to the game because of its razzmatazz. This may be true. But will they come in greater numbers because each innings is 16.4 overs rather than 20? Will the disappearance of 20 balls per innings really make that difference?

Of course not!

I support the idea of a city-based T20 franchise competition in the U.K. based on the IPL/Big Bash (etc.). The format of these competitions is well-established and it seems to work. It widens the support base of cricket in India/Australia and brings in the crowds. So why would the ECB not simply clone the idea (as I assumed they would do)? Why do we need to create a new format ?

The answer to this question is not the one the ECB give - to bring in new spectators. This is bunkum. “I wouldn’t go to a Twenty Over cricket match but I would go to one in which they play 16.4 Overs per side” says nobody. There are not people whose attention span would last for 100 balls but not for 120. Or if there are they should be seeking care.

T20 is an established format and a proven success around the world. Here in England and Wales it is also successful but with 18 counties and matches played in some very “Non IPL” type locations it does not have the focus or the commerciality of the 8 team competitions played elsewhere. The counties have been told they can keep this competition when the new franchise tournament starts in 2020. Here we get to the heart of what is going on.

To have an 8 team T20 tournament in the U.K. based on the IPL with free to air TV coverage and lots of hype would inevitably detract from the Counties T20 competition. And that is why some bright spark came up with the idea of making it not 20 overs a side at all but 100 balls! The counties keep their exclusive rights to the “T20” brand!

Cricket has always been played in a variety of formats. Limited overs matches have varied in my lifetime from 65 to 60, 55, 50, 40 and finally 20. There is nothing inherently wrong with having another variant. Except that there is no need to do it and plenty of reasons not to. The three format world of professional cricket (The two innings First Class game; the 50 over a side One Day (“List A”) game; the 20 over per side (T20) game) is well established). Each has its own familiar character and style - and (importantly) each has its own records. 100 balls per side would not be T20 so neither performances nor results would feature in the T20 records. This matters, not least to players.

So the explanation that 100 balls rather than the established 20 overs will bring in more spectators is surely disingenuous film-flam. If it was true then why not make the Counties T20 tournament 100 balls as well ! No the only conceivable logic is that it could be presented as entirely separate from T20 so that the counties could claim that if you want to see a domestic T20 match theirs is the only offer. And that is seriously perverse.