It has been inevitable for some time but the inaugural season of The Hundred has now been pushed back to 2021 at the earliest.
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were due to be played simultaneously, starting on the 17th July and finishing on the 15th August, but after a meeting on Wednesday it was decided that current conditions have rendered it impossible to stage the competition this year.
The ECB’s chief executive Tom Harrison told BBC Sport that "Of course today's decision is tinged with disappointment but we do recognise the country is going through something unprecedented.”
He added “"All sectors of society are redeploying their thinking to how we help the country get out of this, rather than fulfilling the ambitions we might have for our certain sports. In our case, the sacrifices we are making at the moment seem very small in comparison to what is happening in the big picture.”
Given recent statements from the ECB, the postponement of The Hundred comes as no surprise, with attention focused on delivering men’s and women’s international matches, as well as domestic first-class cricket. The Hundred was designed to attract big crowds, and expand the reach of the sport itself, so the prospect of such matches behind closed doors would do little to achieve this aim.
The intention is to host the competition next year in the same way as planned, but various complications have now arisen, including the draft selection itself. With potential scheduling clashes, and other T20 competitions around the world likely to face rescheduling as well, it is unclear whether a number of drafted players will be available for selection. Added to this are the potential travel restrictions which may prevent players from entering the UK and the furloughing of staff across the 20 host venues.
Perhaps the biggest complication relates to the financial impact on each respective county. All first-class counties were due to be paid over £1million, with discussions still ongoing regarding how much of this will be paid.
Whilst both the men’s and women’s game is set to suffer massively, the impact on women’s cricket is likely to be greater, especially given that the former Kia Super League was scrapped to make way for The Hundred. Despite this, Harrison reiterated that "We have a real opportunity to build on the World Cup success in 2017 and the Kia Super League's success. None of that is going to change with the postponement of the Hundred."
Ultimately, though the postponement of The Hundred is yet another blow to cricket and indeed sport itself, few could question the logic behind doing so. Over 180,000 tickets were sold for the tournament across all venues, and all those who purchased will receive the chance to do so again for 2021. Even if a fraction of this number do purchase tickets, it may still be considered better than no crowds at all. The lucrative commercial success of The Hundred will have to wait for now, but by no means is all hope lost yet.
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