The Hundred 'will bring new people to cricket' - Root
Joe Root, England's Test captain, has welcomed ECB plans for a new-team competition in 2020, suggesting it will appeal to a "completely new audience"
Joe Root has welcomed the ECB's plans for its new-team competition in 2020, suggesting it will appeal to a "completely new audience".
The controversial plans, announced last week, will see teams contest 100-balls-a-side games featuring 15 six-ball overs and one ten-ball over. It also emerged the ECB was considering abandoning lbw dismissals for the format and potentially allowing more than one bowler to deliver the ten-ball over.
While the announcement met mixed reactions - it was widely lampooned on social media, but England players Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad broadly welcomed it - not least due to the perception that it may further dilute the relevance of the longer formats, Root, England's Test captain, has now thrown his support behind the concept.
And while Root accepts that players and administrators will have to "find ways to look after the longer versions of the game", he felt the opportunity of attracting a new fans to the game justified the creation of another format.
"It's going to appeal to a completely new audience, and I think that's great," Root told the Sheffield Star. "The more people and kids we can get into sport, the better.
"We've got to be very careful that we don't measure it against the other formats. It's something to gather a new audience and gain interest, not a threat to the other formats. As players, working with the ICC, we've got to make sure the other formats don't suffer but it has a place in the game, and hopefully we'll see that over time.
"There will be people that compare it to Twenty20 and worry that it might take away interest from Test cricket, but it's important to remember that it will bring new people to the game.
"It might be someone who didn't know much about the game before, comes to a game and then goes on to watch a Test match and get immersed in that. That's the way I'd like to look at it. But, as I say, the most important thing is that we find ways to look after the longer versions of the game, whether that's T20 - although it's hard to see that as a 'longer format' - one-day internationals or Test cricket."
Whether Root's enthusiasm for the idea is shared by other players remains to be seen. Some county players were underwhelmed by the ECB announcing the concept before detailed discussions had taken place with the suggestion that the idea had been welcomed by the players also raising some eyebrows. Durham's Chris Rushworth tweeted that the proposals were "a load of bollocks".
It subsequently transpired the ECB had shared its plans with only three players before the announcement: the England white-ball captains (Heather Knight and Morgan) and Daryl Mitchell, chairman of the PCA. Mitchell described himself as "open-minded" to the proposals, rather than supportive or critical.
The ECB will now meet PCA county representatives at Edgbaston on May 8. Although a few county reps will be unavailable - the date clashes with some 2nd XI fixtures - there is still expected to be a player from every county at the meeting, with some counties sending two players.
While the ECB has not indicated it requires a vote of approval from either the players or the counties, it is possible that a particularly strong negative reaction from the players could force a rethink. But while the initial reaction to the plans - or the way they were unveiled - was not especially positive, a full-scale rebellion remains unlikely.
One entity that was consulted, according to a report in the Times, was the parenting website Mumsnet. Andrew Strauss, England's director of cricket, said at the weekend the new format was aimed at appealing to "mums and kids".
It also appears the ECB will face little opposition to the plans from the MCC. While Law 17 specifically states there should be six deliveries in an over, it is far from unusual for a competition's playing regulations to differentiate from the Laws. For example, the County Championship currently allows visiting teams to insert their hosts without the use of a toss; in international cricket, meanwhile, the ICC outlawed the use of runners a few years ago.
Instead, the ECB simply requires the approval of the ICC for "The Hundred" (as it is currently known) to be deemed "approved cricket". And that is not thought likely to be an issue.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo