When will the cricket authorities begin catering for the fans that actually want to watch cricket?

The Hundred is, let’s be honest, an excruciatingly hard watch. Try as one might, the truth is that it isn’t remotely enjoyable and is only designed to appease those who battle with even the simplest equations. Astonishingly, the ECB has dumbed the game of cricket down so much, in a bid to bring in a new audience, that you can’t help but feel almost patronised when watching the Hundred.

That emotion slowly turns into anger when you take into account how prepared the cricket authorities are to move heaven and earth in order to capture this much talked about ‘new audience’. Well, what about the existing one? Why are seasoned England fans being given the short end of the stick time and time again?

Already we’ve seen how the ECB’s tunnel vision towards the Hundred has affected the long-term planning of the Test side. Indeed, the latest cricket betting market currently prices India at 8/15 as the favourites to win the current summer series underway. Indeed, the most up-to-date cricket predictions for the remainder of 2021 make for uncomfortable reading if you’re an England fan. Moving forward, after Virat Kohli’s men leave town, the Three Lions’ odds don’t improve much either as Australia have been heavily tipped to win the Ashes, which begin later this year, with the best odds of 2/5.

In reality, this current England team should have been overhauled two seasons ago after Australia managed to retain the Ashes in 2019. It’s during times like these when results are unacceptably poor that fans look for someone or something to blame. Unsurprisingly, switching channels at the end of a day’s play after Joe Root’s men have collapsed yet again and seeing the Hundred on does very little to lift one’s mood. 

Granted, even if the Hundred isn’t the route cause of England’s ongoing problems right now, it does represent an ongoing trend in the game that’s alienating seasoned cricket fans. This absurd obsession with shortening the game is making cricket unrecognisable and there’s no guarantee that this product the ECB have served up won’t be the silver bullet for cricket’s survival in the long run. 100 balls an innings will always be too much for someone, just like 20 overs an innings has apparently proved to be, in the end.

Perhaps the energy that’s being put into redesigning the wheel would be better spent investing in the fans who already love all of cricket’s traditional formats. Indeed, there seems to be an unjustified paranoia among the think-tank of the world game that revolves around cricket becoming extinct if they don’t try and water it down in a desperate attempt to make it more vulgar. But the truth is that cricket is alive and well at a grassroots level and even after centuries of being around, Test cricket is still the favoured format.

At the end of the day, where do the cricket authorities go from here as they try to make cricket more bite-sized?
Perhaps this anecdote from the Telegraph’s Nick Hoult about the Hundred is a fitting way to end. Indeed, whilst sitting in the stadium waiting for the game to begin, the cricket correspondent found his relative to be aghast that the first innings would last 100 balls, so he asked how many balls she thought would be perfect, she replied “10”.
The Ten – can you imagine? It would be funny if it wasn’t a looming possibility.

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