100-ball game can prove a winner but Test cricket ignored once more
All the headlines and focus will be on 100-ball innings and wildcard overs, but actually the new tournament will stand or fall by whether or not it attracts the best players and coaches.
The format is not very different to existing Twenty20. Just 20 balls fewer. That is it really.
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It will still be a highly skilled, intense, pressurised game of cricket. We will see great performances, stars born and drama unfold, but that would happen if it was played over 20 overs too. The Twenty20 game is brilliant and does not need changing. The new competition would have been just as successful as a Twenty20 format.
But I understand why the ECB has done this. There is a lot of politics at play. They had to make it different from the county Twenty20 competition and it was always going to be odd to have two Twenty20 tournaments running alongside each other. This way the counties get to keep their Friday-night Twenty20 games and can make them distinct.
I am at the Indian Premier League at the moment and this tournament is successful because it involves the best players, the best coaches and has showbusiness razzmatazz. You need celebrity around the teams to give it a profile that reaches out to non-cricket fans. Those aspects are more important than the number of balls in an innings, and it remains a challenge for the ECB to attract those name players and personalities that non-cricket fans can relate to.
I can imagine this new competition being more popular with the broadcasters. The BBC will be much happier with a game that is played over three hours and between 6.30 and 9.30pm. It fits nicely into their schedules and Twenty20 matches are starting to drag on, an inevitable consequence of the money and pressure the players are under these days.
I always support innovative ideas and love to see the game change. But we tinker with one-day cricket all the time and still we do not touch the one form of the game that has been declining for the past 15 years – Test cricket.
We have done nothing to help that. Why do we have new ideas and innovation for white-ball cricket but not Tests? It is a shame we do not see the same kind of energy put in to market Test cricket. I am sure we will see huge digital campaigns around the new competition, which will mean Test cricket is further ignored. Do we now just have to accept Test cricket stays the same and dies very slowly? What a shame.
The ECB will be laughed at by some for this idea. New concepts are always scoffed at. There is a chance they have made a simple format more complicated. Everyone understands 20 six-ball overs. But 15 six-ball overs and a 10-ball wildcard strategic over? That may be harder to understand.
But it will be a point of difference, a novel and fun idea that could work. Why not give it a go?
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