The ECB’s proposed 100-ball format has been cooked up to fit the TV schedules, according to former England spinner Graeme Swann, and not because cricket doesn’t appeal to a younger audience, as chairman Colin Graves has said.
“It will be exactly the same as T20 cricket if they get the world’s best players in it,” Swann said on ESPNcricinfo’s Talking T20 podcast. “There’s the thing that Colin Graves is barking on about: ‘It’s because kids don’t like cricket.’ They do, Colin. Turn up at my cricket club where I take my son on a Friday night – there’s 150 kids every week.
“[Hundred-ball cricket] is being done very blatantly to fit the TV [schedules], since there is only a small window to get the game on, so they’ve tried to squeeze it in.”
The “concept” for England’s new short-form competition in 2020 has caused much discussion, with the players still to get fully on board. Although the reduction from 20 overs (or 120 balls) per innings is minimal, it is thought the change will help to ensure games fit comfortably into a three-hour window, with all matches expected to finish by 9pm.
“It’s because of the TV rights,” Swann said. “We need to get participation and need to get it on TV, so they are ready to given them small time slots, like they do for football games. So they want to squeeze it in to 100 balls [for these reasons]. But then to insult people’s intelligence by claiming that it’s something else? That’s why there’s uproar at the moment.”
On the podcast, Swann also talked about why more Australians are picked over England players in the IPL auction – it’s a matter of perception, he said.
“The difference between what the English players are worth [at the IPL] compared to the Australians who have gone for massively high prices is that Australian cricket has been the best in the world for a long time, so people automatically think they are better than everyone else. They are not necessarily better, but that’s the perception at the minute. With all due respect to the people spending the money, they are not savvy cricket minds.
“[A lot of] the coaches are Australian, so they pick, I won’t say their friends, but they pick the players they trust and coach in Australia. But trust me, in the next ten years, you’ll end up with truly multinational teams everywhere, because the best players will end up in the same places.”
And although there are 12 England players in the IPL this season – a sign of the ECB’s changing attitude to the league, which clashes with the start of the English domestic season – Swann felt that first-class cricket in the UK still offered a fruitful pathway for most players.
“Very few New Zealand, Australian or English spinners are out here, and that is because there is a lot of good homegrown Indian spinning talent who franchises can purchase for cheaper sums,” he said. “If you are a spinner growing up in England at the minute, you don’t think of the IPL.
“Alex Hales has given up on a red-ball contract, convinced in his own abilities to attract a massive price at the auction, and he didn’t get picked up. He’s only here because David Warner got caught [being involved with] scratching a ball with sandpaper.
“It is not a given that English players will get picked up at an auction. It’s only one or two players who’ve been here all the time. Eoin Morgan, he’s not here anymore. Owais Shah who used to come every year, threw all his eggs in the white-ball basket, it didn’t really pan out for him. So, there’s still much, much more of a route down the red-ball avenue in England.”