The ECB will meet on Thursday to discuss English cricket’s future this season, but the prospect of The Hundred launching this season as intended, looks unlikely at this stage.
According to ESPN Cricinfo, it now seems “almost certain” that The Hundred will be delayed until at least next year, given the current fears surrounding COVID-19.
Aside from fears surrounding well-being, the chance of overseas players even making it to England seems almost impossible under the current circumstances, and the lack of other domestic cricket being played right now has made budgets tight. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, forecasts predicted that The Hundred would not make a profit for five seasons, so a tournament in which ticket sales may be scrapped entirely would be undesirable for all parties.
The bigger question at this stage seems to be, not whether the tournament will take place this year, but rather if it will take place at all. With the ECB likely to be limited on funds, focus will surely be on maintaining English cricket’s existing competitions, rather than investing in a new luxury product.
This is not even taking into account international matches. What about England’s fixtures, both men and women. This will surely take precedent and further decrease the likelihood of a new flagship competition any time soon.
What will the absence of The Hundred mean for cricket though? For the women’s game especially, The Hundred was expected to help grow the game enormously. With the recent World T20 generating huge viewing numbers, another short format competition featuring the World’s best players, being played concurrently alongside the men’s tournament, was in many ways, the perfect next step on the road to equality. Now, there is a chance the women’s game could fade into the shadows again, especially if the ECB decide to prioritise men’s cricket.
There are so many possible factors to way up and in truth Thursday's ECB meeting may not yield many outcomes, but for the time being, Cricket’s new revolutionary, era-defining, profitable competition may still be some years away.
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