The Hundred is set to undergo its inaugural season in July 2021, with the pioneering 100-ball contest engineered to appeal to the whole family and bring equality to men’s and women’s cricket.
Along with the star cricketers from both sexes who are coming to the UK-based tournament, as well as the incredible shirts, the best aspect of the tournament is that men’s and women’s games are going to be played alongside each other. In fact, the opening game of The Hundred will be the women’s Oval Invincibles vs. Manchester Originals on July 21.
It’s set to be a groundbreaking tournament, but will it lead to change across major international cricket competitions in the future?
How The Hundred will work
While exact parity isn’t coming with The Hundred, due to each woman earning less on average than each man, both lines are promoted alongside each other, and both sides will have an equal share of the prize money.
As detailed on this page, the ECB’s first professional contracts for women came in just seven years ago, so creating this much more equal tournament is an unprecedented step in the grand scheme of sports. The format of the schedule should also be lauded, especially in this super-quick form that’ll encourage people to attend more matches to enjoy more of the action.
The vast majority of game days will be double-headers, with the women’s game being mirrored shortly after in the same stadium. For example, the first of these double-headers sees the women’s Birmingham Phoenix vs. London Spirit at 15:00 GMT at Edgbaston, with the same teams but for the men starting at 18:30 GMT, also at Edgbaston.
Cricket fans are accustomed to attending at least half a day of action, so the back-to-back fixtures of the same team should encourage a full day out, with the women’s matches taking place at a more family-friendly time.
Can the men live up to the women this time?
In 2020, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup proved to be quite the spectacle and one of the last major sports tournaments staged, taking place from February 21 to March 8. The bookmakers’ favorites to win the tournament were Australia from the start, what with being the hosts and having immaculate talents like Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney, and Megan Schutt on the roster.
In the upcoming 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, the hosts are also the favorites – India. At fairly short odds of 3.25, the IPL-cultivated crew are tipped hoist the trophy on their home turf, with England back at 5.00 and Australia at 6.00 here.
The two look to pose two very different demonstrations of world-class talent. The Australian women’s team is very much a superpower in the sport right now. In the men’s tournament, there isn’t a standout, omnipotent team to sweep the lot, with there being a few teams ready to be the banana skin.
Taking place from October to November this year, the men’s tournament was originally going to be hosted by Australia when it was to take place last year. So, in theory, it could have staged the men’s and women’s tournaments alongside each other in this short-form of cricket.
Will The Hundred change how cricket stages competitions?
It’s a very difficult question that will have valid arguments from both sides. On the one hand, having the men’s and women’s tournaments run directly alongside each other will have pretty major logistical issues to overcome and would effectively require tournaments involving the same number of teams. As it stands, the men’s competition features six more teams than the women’s in the T20 World Cups.
On the other hand, some will say that putting the two together and not promoting them separately dilutes the importance of the women’s game. That said, both lines would get equal promotion, shared prize money, and equal coverage from broadcast packages through The Hundred system. How ticketing works would also play into it, for example, if people buy a day ticket and are encouraged to attend women’s games as a part of the experience.
There’s a great deal to contemplate if The Hundred’s system is to be rolled out across cricket. Still, if the tournament proves to be a success and does indeed grow the women’s game, the system of a merged tournament should be promoted elsewhere.