Worcestershire CCC chief executive Matt Rawnsley believes the new ECB 100 Ball competition will help to attract a new generation of fans to cricket and provide massive financial support “for the health of the game in general.”
The new format will come into force in 2020 via the ECB’s new city-based tournament with teams bowling 15 traditional six ball overs plus a new 10 ball over.
The 100 ball games will be played in a five week block predominantly during the summer school holiday period and is targeting a new audience in the same way as occurred with the Big Bash in Australia which has a massive family orientated following.
Rawnsley was at Lord’s on Thursday with fellow County CEO’s and Chairmen to hear of the ECB’s plans for the new competition and has given it a resounding thumbs-up.
He is willing to field questions on the competition from members and supporters when staging his first public forum in the Hick Pavilion next Friday at 9.30am ahead of the Specsavers County Championship match with Nottinghamshire at Blackfinch New Road.
Rawnsley said: “I’ve had a bit of time to think about things and there are some details still to be worked out – but I like it.
“If it pans out the way I think it will, it will bring a lot of new people into the game and that is exactly the point.
“We want a new generation of fans and people that are coming to support and watch cricket.
“Hopefully they will get interested in the game and then go and support their local cricket club or come to Blackfinch New Road.
“That is the point of it and ultimately this is a product that is saleable for the broadcasters and it gives us the money we need in the game.
“It’s not about bringing the money in for this competition – it’s about bringing money in for the health of the game in general, across the whole region, across different formats, for women’s cricket,. kids cricket in schools, clubs and local communities and disability cricket.
“That’s the point. It is basically generating a lot of money to give everyone the resources they need to grow the game and secure its future for the next generation.”
Former Worcestershire spinner Rawnsley knows from his own experiences with a young family how important it is for youngsters to understand the game.
He said: “I’ve got a lad who is eight and a daughter who is seven and I’ve played cricket in the Birmingham League for many years and they’ve followed me around for the last half dozen years.
“Even though they know their dad once played cricket for a living, and has since played cricket on a Saturday, my lad will still ask me during the course of the day ‘who’s winning.’
“You watch a game of football and rugby and you know who is winning but in cricket it is very difficult to know who is winning until it is nearly over.
“This format gives that new generation of people who don’t understand the game an accurate picture of where you are at and I hope this could be supported by a new format of scoreboard and enhanced technology in the ground.
“You could have a graph or bar chart to say who is in front of the rate, who is winning. That will be good. You could connect to the game through your phone for stats and other information”
Rawnsley is aware of the opposition from traditionalists to the new format but points out they are not the section of the audience being targeted by the 100 ball competition.
He said: “I’ve seen a lot of conversation on Twitter and talked to many people today at Taunton, many people are saying this is potentially a nail in the coffin for the game.
“With the greatest of respect, purists who like the longer form of the game, like me, are not the target for this new innovation. We will still have two formats of the game already played on the world stage – first class and 50 over cricket that cascade down to domestic level that everyone can support.
“We’ve also got T20 cricket that those same people said would never work in the late 90s, calling it a farce, a joke, – and look what that has become.
“Who knows what this might become. It might not work but let’s give it a chance. I think it is a really brave move. It’s a risk but that is what innovation is.
“We’ve got to get past the view of ‘how is this going to help Test cricket.’ I don’t think it will directly, but indirectly it can provide the foundation of people supporting cricket and funding its future.
“That said, undoubtedly certain skill levels have improved, in fielding for example, and T20 cricket has driven a lot of that.
“But ultimately it is about the finance it brings into the game to secure other formats in the future.
“If you don’t want to accept change, that’s also fine. Come and watch the existing formats. We are not getting rid of anything because of this new competition.
“Hopefully tens and thousands of new people will be interested in the game who might take that enthusiasm to Himley CC, Ombersely CC or Blackfinch New Road. I don’t see that’s there’s much to lose.”
Rawnsley also believes the new 10-ball over will provide interesting conundrums and generate excitement.
He said: “It is an interesting one. The best case scenario is you’ve got your two best hitters and your best bowlers in at the end and it’s a real battle with wickets flying out of the ground and balls flying out of the ground, a real spectacle”
“Equally teams might want to hold back one of their big hitters for that 10 ball over and it will be interesting to see how that detail within the concept develops”