There are two ways of looking at innovation. One where it is the product of necessity. The other being a consequence of studied future gazing. It is difficult to classify The Hundred into the former category. Perhaps it falls more appropriately into the second, albeit with a few furrowed brows.
The intention is clear. Shorten cricket further and make it more compact. Take lesser of the viewer’s time and perhaps, maybe even as a consequence, more from their wallet in lieu of fast-paced entertainment. It is a clear case of giving the consumer what they want.
When a person enters a sporting arena, they want their adrenaline to be pumping and pulses to be racing. The time duration is secondary to the thrill of a moment induced by the frantic nature of the action. That is why boxing matches that barely last double digit minutes sell out stadiums and rake in millions. It is just how the idea of sport and competition is – blow for blow, knockout for knockout.
What is The Hundred?
The Hundred is meant to cater to the new age cricket audience, and even dares to venture out to the new age sporting audience. Perhaps even capture the imagination of a larger world than cricket has limited its reach to. But what really is this new format of cricket?
The Hundred, as the name obviously indicates, will afford each competing team 100 legitimate balls in their innings and, like any other format of cricket, whoever scores more runs, wins. The fielding side changes ends after 10 balls, instead of the six in every other format of cricket. This has, quite understandably, been designed to save time on the turn over, which has been halved from the hitherto shortest format of cricket, T20Is.
Each bowler can bowl, at a time, either 5 or 10 consecutive balls and a maximum of 20 deliveries per innings. The Power Play, when only 2 fielders will be allowed outside the 30-yard circle, will last the first 25 balls of the innings.
And, most importantly, the game will last two and a half hours. Or that is the dream. T20 cricket was initially envisioned to last only twenty minutes more. It clearly has not gone to plan, with IPL games often stretching beyond four hours – hardly an exhibition for quick cricket.
These games are, by no means, any less riveting and perhaps that is the beauty of cricket. That even in its quickest rendition, it allows for the romance of a slow burn – mid innings strategies and those drawn out discussions before the last ball of a run chase, allowing enough time for the tension to boil into a crescendo.
Death knell of ODI cricket?
On first glance, one would think The Hundred threatens T20 cricket directly. But, that would be far from the truth. The T20, powered by the rich IPL, and embraced by most nations across the world as the easiest entry point to the game will never stop ceasing the imagination.
Neither will Test cricket be impacted, because this format of cricket is not even competing on the same parameters of time. The selling pitch of Tests, as opposed to T20Is or The Hundred, is based on values of life and who can stand the tallest. This format, as the name suggests, is a test of patience, perseverance, skill – in cricket and those of life – over a period of time.
There are public patrons of the format too, not least the poster boy and most popular cricketer in the world, Virat Kohli. And, for all intents and purposes, there is nothing that can ever replace the attrition of Ben Stokes in Headingly or Harbhajan Singh in Eden Gardens or indeed Rishabh Pant in Gabba.
Then there is ODI cricket – a format envisioned to serve the same purpose T20 does today and perhaps The Hundred will serve tomorrow. A quicker, more instantly gratifying, and urgently exciting format of cricket that gives you a result within a day. The Hundred will give it less than three hours.
And perhaps the death knell is the fact that the world champions of ODI cricket – trailblazers of the unnegotiable brand of all costs hard hatting – are playing motherland to the newest seductress of world cricket.