ECB's 100-ball formula: Change just for the sake of changing things up?
As a lot of the readers would have read by now, the ECB is proposing to start an IPL style city-based franchise tournament with one change - instead of the traditional 20 overs per innings that dominates the world today, ECB wants to instead have a 100-balls-per-innings tournament
Each innings in the proposed new format will have 15 overs of 6 balls each, but the final over will comprise of 10 balls and can be bowled by up to 2 bowlers.
The first question to ask is - WHY? Just why unnecessarily tweak and mess about with a format that has proven to be the most successful format, at least in regard to drawing in crowds.
There is a saying if it ain't broke, don't fix it. ECB seems to be doing precisely that. Though in the defence of ECB, when they first introduced the newest format that is the rage of the cricket world today in 2003, even that move was met with a lot of skepticism.
The critics said all kinds of things including that it just wasn't cricket anymore and what after this - T10, then T5, till eventually T-toss? Both captains just go for the toss, whoever wins the toss wins the game.
Naturally, these critics were proved wrong and the T20 format has been a resounding success the world over.
However, the proposed 100-ball format just doesn't seem to tick the boxes that T20 did.
Is there really a need for another format?
Any product is successful only if it fulfills some conditions, the primary requisite of which is that there exists a problem and the product solves it. There are exceptions to the rule, but by and large most successful products fulfill this condition.
ODIs proved to be successful because people just didn't have the time to invest 5 days in a Test match anymore. So ODI cricket was introduced where the crowds could watch a complete match in a single day. Additionally, with this new short format, it was possible to have multi-nation tournaments which were not possible earlier.
So ODI cricket worked because it was new and different from tests and helped resolve some issues with test cricket thereby helping to bring the game to new viewers.
Then T20 cricket was introduced and required people to invest even less time in a game. It was like going out for a movie, while the cricket started to provide great entertainment with innovative shot making, top class fielding, stunning boundary catches, et al. It just worked beautifully and people didn't even have to skip work to watch the matches. They could go to games after office and school hours.
Each new format was substantially different from what was on offer previously. One cannot really say the same for the 100-ball tournament.
It feels like the same product in a new bottle as they say. First of all what problem of the T20 format is it trying to solve?
The games of the 100-ball tournament will finish half an hour earlier for sure, but is there a big contingent of people in England who are willing to watch cricket ONLY if the games finish in two and a half hours instead of three hours?
You cannot repackage the same product with some needless tweaks here and there and then hope to sell it to the same crowd which is already addicted to the earlier version of the product.
ECB seems to have gotten drawn into the format for the 'coolness' factor. The idea of having a 100-ball format seems 'cool', that's about all. It doesn't improve on or provide a solution to a problem with T20s, nor is the 100-ball version that different.
The very basic question remains unanswered, why tweak a format that just works brilliantly all over the world?
Is there a need to fix what's not broken?
Additionally, just what is ECB's long-term vision for the sport? Will cricket now have four formats? Tests, ODIs, T20s and 100-ball whatever it will be called version?
Will there be 100-ball internationals? Does ECB really expect the other leagues like the CPL or the Big Bash which have been resounding commercial successes to abandon that format and adopt the new one? Does it seem even remotely fathomable that the BCCI will abandon its billion-dollar IPL format, just because 100-ball one is 'cool' according to the ECB? Only time will tell.
Will the ECB pick its teams for global events like the T20 World Cup based on how their players play in the 100-ball version? How will that team fare? Would it not be a little bit of a case of picking a chess player to play in a checkers tournament? There are definitely a lot of ifs and buts surrounding the future of this proposed format.
There is nothing wrong with a 100-ball cricket version, per se.
Instead of T20s, had the ECB initially proposed the 100-ball format and had that stuck by being successful then there would have been no problems. However, now that the cricket world already has a very successful third format, then why un-necessarily tweak it and introduce a fourth format, which doesn't in any particular way improve on the earlier format, to begin with?
ECB should reconsider its decision and just go for an IPL or Big Bash style league; it has worked the world over and there is no reason why it wouldn't work in England.
There is a chance that the 100-ball format proves to be a success and cricket either completely does away with T20s and everyone takes up the 100-ball format or that cricket does end up existing in four different formats.
However, it is far more likely that the fans realize that this 100-ball format is just old wine in a new bottle. ECB shouldn't try to fix what is not broken.