Did we really need the Hundred?

Changes to T20 could well have achieved the desired ends instead

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
The flamethrowers were in action, Birmingham Phoenix vs London Spirit, Men's Hundred, Edgbaston, July 23, 2021

At what point does cricket become less of a game and more of an entertainment?  •  Getty Images

Throughout my playing career I believed there were two possible solutions to a problem: a simple one and a complicated one. I also believed that to the benefit of Australia, England would regularly choose the complicated solution. They've done it again.
To overcome the perceived problem of a public not fully conversant with cricket, they've concocted another form of the game - The Hundred. That's right, they've reduced by a mere 20 balls a format that was extremely popular with players and the public.
At least previous changes to format options were substantial; from five days to 50 overs and then a further abbreviation to 20 overs. If you're going to introduce reductions don't do it in half-measures. And don't make changes simply for change's sake; what cricket's evolution needs is improvements. To make matters worse, the Hundred hasn't so much made changes as it has engulfed the game in gimmicks.
If the requirement for a terrestrial television deal truly is a format that doesn't exceed a three-hour time frame, then why include tactical time-outs? The original plan for T20 cricket was for the overs to be completed in 80 minutes, with a ten-minute break between innings. That's a not unreasonable four minutes per over (with a bit of leeway built in) and a match finished in three hours.
However, when you allow lengthy DRS deliberations and numerous replays to decide boundaries - to mention just a couple of administrator-induced interruptions - it's difficult for the players to uphold their end of the bargain.
Surely a terrestrial television deal that gave the game a wider audience reach, could have been arranged around the T20 format.
And if you're truly interested in further educating the public about cricket, why not utilise the video screen at the ground. Showing valuable tips on the game from current players could replace the tradition whereby fathers used to educate their kids at the ground.
Useful tips on the game would be far more educational than constantly bombarding patrons with the inane rubbish that regularly invades the video screens. "Every ball counts." Now there's a revelation. If that hasn't always been the case then I wasted the bulk of my first 36 years.
In smaller markets T10 leagues are already sprouting and the Hundred is a logical stepping stone on the way to mainstream cricket heading in that direction.
At what point does cricket become less of a game and more of an entertainment? When does it become more fulfilling for the patrons than the players? For cricketers of my vintage - I'm pre-helmets, not prehistoric - that point is probably reached at 20 overs. I recall days where play was severely restricted by poor weather and the after-stumps beer didn't feel like it was earned. I can imagine feeling the same way if I had only faced two balls at the end of an innings while fielding for 20 overs. I loved fielding but more so if the potential was there for a decent bat in between stints chasing leather.
Imagine the frustration of Australia's Michael Clarke - a prolific run scorer in longer formats - who played five matches in the ICC's 2007 World T20 tournament for a total of four balls faced.
Apart from reducing the number of balls to obtain a terrestrial television deal, the reasoning behind the Hundred could well be that it improves the chances of cricket fulfilling the Olympic dream. This is often cited as a way to spread the game's popularity to a wider audience. Surely the T20 format could achieve that same outcome without yet another reduction.
Cricket is a team game ideally played by 11 members a side. Performance satisfaction is a big reason why youngsters fall in love with the game. Administrators would do well to remember that before they rush into devising shorter forms of the game.
The more the length of an innings is reduced, the greater chance that there will be players "just making up the numbers". Even those players crave occasional performance satisfaction.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist