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ECB county cricket chief insists The Hundred won’t devalue the four-day game

The controversial 100-ball league, featuring eight city franchises, is scheduled to start next year.

The Kia Oval on day one of the Specsavers County Championship (PA Images).
The Kia Oval on day one of the Specsavers County Championship (PA Images).

County cricket chief Gordon Hollins expects the number of counties playing championship cricket to remain at 18 despite fears over the impact caused by launching The Hundred.

The controversial 100-ball league to be played by eight city franchises is due to begin next year.

And while Hollins, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s first managing director of county cricket, admits the 50-over game will be downgraded as a result, he insists the four-day and Twenty20 formats will survive intact.

County cricket ranks very high and it's the cornerstone of what we do. I don't buy that The Hundred will devalue county cricket. ECB county cricket managing director Gordon Hollins

A report last week revealed that a third of county chief executives predict there will be fewer than 18 championship teams operating in a decade.

“We live in changing times but we certainly have no objective to reduce the number of first class counties. You can’t have enough good first class counties,” Hollins said.

“County cricket ranks very high and it’s the cornerstone of what we do. I don’t buy that The Hundred will devalue county cricket.

“The 50-over competition will become under this model a development competition, clearly. Nobody is going to deny that, but that’s the price to be paid to try and fit the different formats in.

“Fifty-over cricket needs to have a role, but that doesn’t need to be the same as it’s always been. The Blast attracts a specific audience and attracts a county rivalry. I don’t see that changing.”

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Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad (right) checks on Yorkshire’s Joe Root after hitting him on the helmet during the Specsavers County Championship, which ECB county cricket chief Gordon Hollins insists won’t be devalued by The Hundred (Simon Cooper/PA Images).

Appointed as the ECB’s managing director of county cricket in January, Hollins outlined the importance of The Hundred in safeguarding the future of the game.

“A core of people oil the wheels of the game on a daily basis – club, county and international cricket. They make it happen. Without that core, you can’t build,” he said.

“But there aren’t enough of them – where are the next scorers, groundsmen and volunteers coming from? The Hundred is designed to inspire more people to engage in our game than ever before.

“I genuinely believe that The Hundred plays a really important role in achieving that because if it can generate those water cooler moments where people are saying cricket is sexy and engaging people from different options, then that comes back into the system.

Unless we adapt and appeal to a wider audience and more people, then we'll suffer down the line Gordon Hollins

“The world’s different now and unless we adapt and appeal to a wider audience and more people, then we’ll suffer down the line.

“One of the audiences we’re directly appealing to is the South Asian audience and we know from research into The Hundred that that type of event appeals to the South Asian community. That community wants something different.

“Fifty-two per cent of the population of Leicester are South Asian, but where are they at Grace Road? They’re nowhere to be seen because they don’t see county cricket as being relevant to them.

“I remember the same discussions taking place in 2002 when T20 was introduced – ‘it’s the end of cricket, I’m not going to go’. The proof will be in the pudding. We’re pretty close now. It can’t come quick enough.”

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