Okaay. Here comes my oar on the you-know-what: briefly in.
It’s been an extraordinary week or two. The ECB, unfortunately perceived by many as the claret-swilling but typically unthreateningly soporific artists (formerly known as the BOFs), are nevertheless suddenly, undeniably lustily, charging-down-the-wickets right at all of us, brandishing another alarmingly dynamic concept. Century Cricket/#100ball/Clockwork-in-maybe-Orange. Wow.
In the maelstrom, the explosion of coverage, the possibility for uncompromised, non-tribal reaction seems an early casualty: I don’t know anybody (for example), who is simply excited by the news – it being too bombshelltastic for that. Many of us I think waited for markers from Those Who Influence, such was the level of consternation and, in fact, visceral rage.
Some however are wowing, smiley-positively but I’m not clear how deep their love is. They may be truly horny with the charged nature of the proposals but this may be different than actually really liking the thing.
It feels like most folks are still trying to process the merciless-brilliance of the plan – the essence being hard to reach. What is it, that’s being lobbed into the circle here? Feels more like a symbol than a real project; it’s that incendiary.
The idea of #100ball may supposed to be ‘about simplicity’ but in truth it’s explosive; it has consequences, the most significant of which may be the brutal estrangement of Cricket People. For the ECB to so-o utterly separate out – out and away – the traditional cricket supporter, as a bi-product of The Next Big Thing, is huge. Monumental. For this excommunication to be more or less the point of the exercise is… smoke-cannisteracious.
#100ball, or whatever we call it, is a magnificently bold concept. It’s a sexy, marketable, distinctive format. It’s transformative, accessible, it has potential in ways that longer-form cricket may not. But most obviously – and herein lies some of the brilliance and all of the received malignity – it absolutely flicks the vees at the County Championship or Long-form Posse.
The screaming subtext is that Century Cricket is not for you lot… and we know it. This is another cricket, for another crowd. That is how the proposal was swallowed (or not) by many traditional supporters – supporters that will mostly never come round to it… as a ‘matter of principle’.
The ECB know this, they’ve factored it in and they move on, in the firm expectation that Clockwork-in-Orange will be a revelation, will actually win over some folks from the shires but (mainly) will be about a Total Refresh, a new game, a new experience, a New Concept, fit for contemporary sporty-family life.
I was quite shocked. I plain resented, intially, the ruthlessness at work, here. I still can’t get entirely past this idea that the game has been deliberately separated-out… but I can see this may work, i.e. the #100ball experience – live or on the telly – might expand and reposition the game in a good and maybe necessary way, provided we can be thick-skinned enough to set aside the collateral damage.
Maybe the people who designed all this absolutely can see beyond the trauma into a brave new space. Maybe they’ve actually studied change and this has allowed them to shut out emotion, sensitivity, culture. Some would argue that’s what leaders do.
I’m still coughing up the smoke, I think. Trying to get sensible. What concerns me is the impact on the hows and ifs of red-ball cricket: the hierarchy, the scheduling, the value of. I love all that old stuff.