Former England Test captain Nasser Hussain believes cricket needs The Hundred to make the most of a terrific year for the sport in the UK.
England lifted the Cricket World Cup trophy on home soil, while The Ashes series provided outstanding drama including Ben Stokes’ magical innings to win the third Test of the series.
Some of the biggest names in world cricket have put their names forward to be included in The Hundred Draft – live on Sky Sports this Sunday – including Steve Smith, Chris Gayle and Mitchell Starc.
And Hussain believes that being able to attract those big names will be important to build fans of the sport in this country.
He told RadioTimes.com: “This is why we need The Hundred.
“After the summer we’ve had with the World Cup and The Ashes, things like the super over and Ben Stokes’ heroics, there are prospective fans we could be missing out on.
“It’s all well and good patting ourselves on the back saying ‘we’ve got a load of fans, cricket’s really healthy in this country’ but the stats tell you there are other people out there who just don’t get cricket. It’s too long for them, it’s too dull for them, they want a quick, short, fun, family-orientated game that’s not too complicated.
“Hopefully The Hundred will provide that, but it will live on the quality – it can’t be gimmicky.
“If you’ve got something like Jofra Archer running in at Steve Smith or David Warner and the cricket’s good, then it will work.”
There has been plenty of criticism aimed at The Hundred since it was announced in 2018, but Hussain believes there is a place for the 100-ball format in the UK.
He said: “The key to any game of cricket as we saw last summer is good players, good pitches, good weather, great atmosphere.
“I was at the Women’s World Cup final with my daughter and her school cricket side and the atmosphere as England beat India was absolutely magnificent.
“It was a different atmosphere to what you see in Blast cricket, which is a little bit more boozy and little bit more in-your-face.
“Our T20 Blast cricket is a good product as we saw on Finals day.
“Seats and grounds already sell out for that, but it does water it all down a little bit when spread across 18 counties.
“When you get it down to eight sides and you get the world’s best players involved, even Chris Gayle could miss out.”
Who would you pick first in The Hundred Draft?
You have one choice… who would you claim?
While elite batsmen like Gayle and Smith are likely to grab headlines, many believe there will be an emphasis on bowlers when the Draft comes around to select squads.
Ian Ward recently told RadioTimes.com he would choose mystery spin bowler Rashid Khan with the first pick, and Hussain agreed.
“Wardy picked mine! I would go Rashid Khan. I looked about, saw a tweet about him and was like ‘don’t go Rashid Khan…’ but that’s what the Draft is going to be like.
“If I can’t get him, I’d probably go Starc.
“In that first round, don’t gamble. Andre Russell, Mitchell Starc, Rashid Khan, these are the guys who’ve got a proven track record anywhere in the world.
“They’ve been there and done it.”
While plenty of experienced coaches and former cricket stars will be involved in the inaugural Draft, Hussain is intrigued to see how it all plays out, and offered tactical advice of his own ahead of the selection process.
He said: “The first few picks should be relatively easy, you can work out who’s going to go for what.
“Lower down when you only have 100 seconds and a few of your options have gone, it’ll be nice to see some of these coaches asking the guys next to them and pressing the panic button a little.
“It’s obviously live so you can’t say ‘sorry, can we do that again, I was thinking about my cup of tea’.
“You look at the basics of T20 cricket as being hard-hitting batsmen, but if you look at sides who have won historically, they actually have better bowling attacks.
“Look at a side like RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) in India who have gone with Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers up front… then they fall off the cliff and the bowling isn’t strong, so I’d always look for the best bowling options – no weak links in bowling.
“Always, I’d have a left-armer so I’m looking at Mohamed Amir, Starc and Trent Boult. I’m looking for spin so Rashid Khan or Sandeep Lamichhane, guys like this.
“Some of those fundamentals of white ball cricket need to be absolutely embraced.”
“Welsh Fire will probably look at the three cricketers they’ve got so far, they’ve got batsmen there in Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton and Colin Ingram, so they’ll be looking for a bowler fairly early on.”
While team names such as Welsh Fire, Northern Superchargers and the first-picking Trent Rockets may not be familiar to fans just yet, Hussain is keen to see how fanbases develop once the tournament gets going next summer.
“You do need that an affiliation with a club or city. It will take time. You look at India. After a while RCB fans were fanatical, Mumbai Indians fans are fanatical.
“At first, what’s your association with the London Spirit? Not a lot, but if they start playing well and selling out Lord’s and it becomes a great evening, people who don’t go to our games will think ‘why don’t we go an watch one of those as well?’
“At the moment, I haven’t really commented on The Hundred because it’s been such a busy year, but let’s give it a go.”
How to watch The Hundred Draft
You can watch the Draft live on Sky Sports Main Event, Cricket and Sky One from 7:00pm on Sunday 20th October 2019.
Live coverage will also be available on the Sky Sports Facebook page and YouTube channel so you can stay up to date wherever you are.
For more details, check out RadioTimes.com’s The Hundred Draft guide.