The Hundred: In its third year, but struggling to find its feet

The Indian quartet of Harmanpreet, Smriti, Jemima and Richa is in the fray for the current edition as speculation mounts about its future, format

Winners of the men and women's titles after the 2022 event
Winners of the men and women's titles after the 2022 event

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The third edition of The Hundred, the franchise cricket tournament for men and women in England, got underway with much fanfare earlier this week — though not without the clouds of doubt about its future. The financial viability of such a tournament, which features eight men's and women’s teams, along with the scheduling, has come under severe scrutiny.

There is no lack of ‘ammo’ in the unique concept which sees the cream of England stars in the fray in tandem with the top guns in women’s cricket, while the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) did its bit by allowing their marquee names to be a part of the draft picks. Four of them — Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Jemima Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh are in action this year — even though the overseas T20 leagues are still off-limits for their men’s active players.

Approximately 14.1 million viewers watched the second edition in 2022, which showed a marginal dip, while the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is banking heavily on a tie-up with Sky Sports as the official broadcaster till 2028. However, a report released by Fanos Hira, the Worcestershire chairman earlier this year concluded that The Hundred has made a $9 million loss to date — a figure that has been disputed by the ECB.

Hira’s report suggested that the ECB must explore the options of external investment to boost players’ salaries — capped at 125,000 pounds for men and 31,250 for women, respectively — to a level capable of attracting the world’s best players. The proliferation of newer T20 leagues since The Hundred was mooted in the ECB boardroom has posed a serious challenge to a concept which promoted gender equality in cricket – and attracting private investors and changing the format are being now discussed as a way forward.

Dismissing the negative vibes in a section of English media as a ‘lot of misreporting,’ ECB chairman Richard Thompson recently predicted a long and successful future for the competition. This is the first time that the tournament is not clashing with any England men or women’s international cricket – but the wisdom of having their top men’s cricketers indulge in such a format ahead of their title-defence in the 50-overs World Cup in India is also being questioned.

Speaking during a promotional event in end-April at Edgbaston, Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, told the BBC: ‘’I can’t see why our competition can’t be the second best to IPL.’’ One has to wait and watch…

The teams & format

The eight teams are: Birmingham Phoenix, London Spirit, Manchester Originals, Northern Superchargers, Oval Invincibles, Southern Brave, Trent Rockets, and Welsh Fire. Each team will have just 100 balls to set or chase a score.

There is a significant change in The Hundred 2023 format, where a bowler can either bowl five or 10 consecutive balls, with a maximum of 20 deliveries per game. Each bowling side gets a strategic timeout of up to 90 seconds and they can choose when they use it. The coach can walk out to the middle of the ground and discuss tactics with their players during the timeout.

A 25-ball powerplay is given to each team at the start of their batting innings. During the powerplay, two fielders are allowed outside of the 30-yard fielding circle.

Smriti Mandhana in action yesterday
Smriti Mandhana in action yesterday

The Indian quartet in The Hundred 2023

Smriti Mandhana: The Indian vice-captain, who became the first Indian player to feature in all three seasons of The Hundred, was the newsmaker on Friday night when she became the first women’s batter to hit five half-centuries in The Hundred. Playing for Southern Brave, Mandhana hammered 70 off 42 balls against Welsh Fire, overtaking her Indian teammate Jemimah Rodrigues’ four 50s in this tournament.

Harmanpreet Kaur: The Indian captain, in the line of fire after her recent rant against home umpires during a series in Bangladesh, will find The Hundred a refreshing change. After missing the 2022 season, Harmanpreet was picked by the Trent Rockets ahead of the ongoing edition as the seasoned pro is set to reunite with her Mumbai Indians teammate Nat Sciver-Brunt.

Jemimah Rodrigues: A vibrant personality who had already made her mark in the first edition of The Hundred, Jemima was the final signing of the season as far as Indians are concerned. The Mumbai and India batter initially did not find any takers in the draft, but a late injury to Heather Graham of Australia meant a recall for Jemimah for the Northern Superchargers,

Richa Ghosh: The pint-sized Indian wicketkeeper batter has been on the franchises’ radar and having played for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, she will now make her debut in the Hundred - replacing Georgia Redmayne in the London Spirit squad. Ghosh will also reunite with Heather Knight, her Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate in WPL and now Spirit captain.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 05 Aug 2023, 3:38 PM