After a disappointing 2019 and the conclusion of the Kia Super League (KSL), Ollie Godden explains how he thinks The Hundred could revolutionise English women’s cricket.
The Kia Super League was the jump start English women’s cricket needed.
Having played a significant part in continuing to grow the game in this country, the tournament was largely seen a success. It acted as a pathway for national representation and allowed domestic players to rub shoulders with the best in the world.
However, the birth of The Hundred will offer opportunities to advance the women’s game in England beyond what the KSL could have ever achieved.
As the curtain came down on the KSL’s existence, many mourned the death of a platform which helped take women’s cricket in England to new heights. A factor behind the thrilling 2017 World Cup win, it should be recognised for the job that it has done in growing cricket.
But it was never destined to last. A standalone tournament with little or no integration with the men, it stalled while other tournaments – notably the Women’s Big Bash League – continued to grow.
And while The Hundred may be a unique venture into the unknown, the ECB are planning on running the men’s and women’s events side-by-side. Furthermore, it is also included it as a key part of their exciting new #InspiringGenerations project, with £20m set to be invested in the women’s game over the next four years to elicit gender equality across the sport.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) October 3, 2019
Players will be split across the franchises through a two-stage draft, the first of which has already been completed with 16 of England’s centrally contracted stars snapped up. The second round will see teams permitted to choose one more of the remaining England internationals and up to three overseas players, leaving the nine remaining spots to be filled with domestic talent which was seen aplenty in the KSL.
The eight franchise competition will kick off next summer, and, amongst the mayhem and confusion that has been born out of the media swirl – including rules which are still seemingly being manipulated – an objective truth has been realised by a minority: The Hundred has potential to be a force for good for the players, coaches and fans.
Most notably, the teams will be strong. Very strong. Do we need a new format to facilitate strong teams? Probably not. Does the advent of a new format make the selection process more intriguing? Absolutely.
The women’s game has never been filled with so much ability globally and this selection process will ensure star-studded line ups, leading up to an abundance of cricketing strength across the regions.
Delighted to be playing for Southern Brave in the first year of TheHundred 💯 💥 pic.twitter.com/QYp26KdZbq
— Danielle Wyatt (@Danni_Wyatt) October 3, 2019
Facilitating coach development is another potential positive of The Hundred. It is hoped that it will act a breeding ground for coaching prospects and a tester for established ones, the new format providing an opportunity for them to prove their worth in unknown experiment.
Of the seven franchises to announce their women’s head coaches, five have selected women, with four of those – Salliann Briggs (Trent Rockets), Charlotte Edwards (Southern Brave), Danni Hazell (Northern Superchargers) and Lydia Greenway (Oval Invincibles) – being English. And while the men’s tournament is being heavily criticised for a lack of home representation, The Hundred could play a significant factor in not just producing the next generation of talent but also potential future England women’s (or men’s) head coaches.
Furthermore, the simultaneous running of the men’s and the women’s events provides both sides with resources to feed off from one another, as has been the case with the Big Bash. As Briggs aptly described: “once everything is aligned, you are part of a wider strategy, and with that you get better investment, better resourcing and better people”. This shared strategy refers to the festival atmosphere at grounds which will serve to attract new fans into the spectacle and both events will benefit from the experiences of the other, even if it is true that the women’s game has more to gain in terms of popularity and growth potential.
Excited to finally be sharing our plan to transform women’s & girls’ cricket. It’s been a long time in the making. I have been so heartened by the level of support from everyone involved in the game. Look out for the announcement at 1pm. #InspiringGenerations pic.twitter.com/JIlE1hc8TB
— Clare Connor (@ConnorCricket) October 8, 2019
The Hundred represents what is hoped will be a seminal turning point for women’s cricket on home terrain both at the elite end and the grassroots level after a difficult year. England were outplayed and outclassed in the 2019 Ashes and it’s hard to disagree that England’s amateur domestic structure, both in terms of the wage and provision, is a “big contributing factor” to this drastic loss, as claimed by Clare Connor, the Director of England Women’s Cricket.
It’s not perfect yet – the discrepancy in the salaries between the men and women is a serious concern – but it could be the change that was needed.
Having now announced their #InspiringGenerations project, the focus has switched to not just improving the elite women’s game but the sport at all levels. The standard of cricket needs to improve in order to keep up and overhaul Australia once again and it is hoped increasing the professionalism and investing more in the grassroots will achieve just this.
— Heather Knight (@Heatherknight55) October 8, 2019
Clearly only time will tell whether the potential growth for cricket will be realised through The Hundred. The correct steps have, however, already been taken in utilising the competition as an avenue for raising the standards of the game from a playing and coaching perspective.
From the fans’ perspective, we have seen a recent shift in the perception and popularity of women’s football, and have experienced just how strategic implementation can grow the game. The Hundred can be the avenue through which new fans are attracted to cricket. An accessible route into the sport for the novice, and an intriguing spectacle for the veteran, the engine of women’s cricket is running and The Hundred may well shift English cricket through the gears and into a new top speed.