03 Sep

On his first day as the new ECB chairman, Ian Watmore threw his support behind The Hundred, describing the controversial new competition as a “gateway” to the sport for a new audience. The Hundred is a key plank of the Inspiring Generations framework — the strategic five-year plan released by the ECB last year — which Watmore described as a “strong piece of work” and which he is committed to implementing during his five-year term of office.

Postponed this summer because of Covid-19 and threatened with uncertainty because of huge financial losses due to the pandemic, The Hundred remains strategically important, according to Watmore, for three reasons: to attract new supporters, to underpin the women’s professional game, and to complement other formats in a comprehensive plan designed to grow the game.

Accepting that many supporters did not understand the need for it, nor were they convinced of the viability of it, Watmore hoped that The Hundred could be a first port of call for those currently beyond the reach of the game. He hopes it will ultimately act as a signpost to other, more traditional formats, including first-class cricket, which he described as not just the best form of cricket, but the best type of any sport.

“I don’t see it [The Hundred] as something that needs to be in conflict with all the other forms of the game, but as something that is additive to them,” he said. “The key is getting new people to the game and then developing their interest in the whole game and in also developing the women’s game.”

Watmore backed the whole county system, saying there is a bright future for them all, unless long-term financial considerations dictated otherwise or counties themselves sought a more limited arrangement. “Everywhere, the county system is playing its part in the richness of the tapestry of English cricket and I am very proud of all of them for what they are doing,” he added.

“There is a long history of tradition that we need to build upon and retain and so what I think all counties should be aspiring to do is playing all forms of cricket and developing England players of the future with a nuanced, localised strategy.”

John Stephenson


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