ECB must capitalise on new wave of interest after incredible summer of cricket
The ECB ought to rethink their persistence with launching The Hundred
Back in May, all the talk around the upcoming summer of cricket focused on a fresh chance to inspire a new generation of fans and players. While England were favourites to win the Cricket World Cup, lifting the trophy seemed less of a priority than converting sceptics to seeing the magic of the sport.
It took a while for that wave to gather pace, with much of the Cricket World Cup passing sports fans by, their brains fatigued by the relentless football season. But looking back, it would be hard to argue that cricket has not succeeded in its aim. A thrilling World Cup final, in which England and New Zealand could only be separated by the technicality of how many boundaries each team had scored, saw the nation brought to a halt by the drama.
Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer were the heroes that day, just as they have been in the Ashes so far, with Archer taking five wickets and removing the insurmountable Steve Smith from the game with an aggressive bouncer in his debut Test.
And that is why this summer has created a legacy that will endure for years to come - it has produced heroes, something essential for anyone to catch the bug. Nobody starts supporting a team of any sport because of a solid defensive performance. They are blown away by one player's magic and that's it, they're hooked.
Regardless of whether Joe Root lifts a £5.99 replica of an urn come mid-September, this summer has changed the public perception of cricket and converted sceptics to seeing the magic of the sport. As I sat and watched Ben Stokes singlehandedly keep the Ashes alive at Headingley, my brother and best mate, neither of whom have ever liked cricket, said: "Yeah, alright, I get it now." Or words to that effect.
England may still lose the Ashes - they must avoid defeat at Old Trafford and win at the Oval, but in the grand scheme of things that is not important. New heroes have been made, have written their names into the history books and in doing so, given the sport the boost that it needed. Archer's rapid rise in particular has helped reshape the sport's reputation, showing that it is not only a game for the privately educated.
But the unprecedented drama and success of this summer does beg the question: do we really need The Hundred? The answer is a resounding no. There is no need for another, even shorter format. There has been no demand for it and I dare say it is destined to fail, with the T20 Blast satisfying people's craving for a short, intense, burst of cricket. The argument that it is necessary to introduce children to the game makes the offensive presumption that they can't count in multiples of six. If anything it just adds a layer of confusion.
At risk of sounding like a Proper Cricket Man resistant to any form of change, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The ECB must capitalise on this new wave of interest inspired by England's success this summer, and persisting with The Hundred risks undoing a lot of the good work that the likes of Stokes and Archer have done for the game.