Thoughts on The Hundred – Part Three – The Players

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A First Glance: Overseas v Home-grown

It’s a commonplace these days for big tournaments to call on the best players in the world to ensure bums on seats and pennies in the coffers. Should we ever stop and wonder why?

The recent game London Spirit v Northern Superchargers at Lord’s had an intriguing aspect: the first ball of each innings was bowled by a relatively unknown home-grown teenager. Neither received any identifying detail from TV commentators apart from Ebony Rainford-Brent’s ‘She’s 18-years-old’.

They were Sophie Munro (London Spirit) and Kalea Moore (Northern Superchargers). Both were late additions to the strength after all those Australian stars cried off. Beth Barrett-Wild, in charge of the women’s operation, had held back the tears as she realised Ellyse Perry would not be coming.

The inclusion of overseas players is a tradition dating back half a century to Kerry Packer. The IPL continued the process. In English women’s cricket the Kia Super League followed suit with mixed results, the imports dominating most matches and most stats tables.

The Hundred has extended the pattern.

There was a late scramble to find replacements for the missing Australians. A few overseas players have proved their worth (Jemimah Rodrigues, Dane van Niekerk, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Amanda-Jade Wellington), others have not. They know they have to produce the goods; that is the weight they bear in their privileged position.

The remaining gaps were filled up with home-grown players. This has had a double-edged effect: some have seized the opportunity to show their worth; others have been left as mere cap-bearers (under current regulations umpires are not allowed to carry players’ kit on their person).

Back to Munro and Moore. Heather Knight asked Munro to take the second set of five against the top scorer in the tournament on the most august patch of grass in world cricket in front of a large crowd and inquisitive cameras. What an experience! We were offered nothing to help us identify her; all the attention was on the batter. Munro hails from Nottinghamshire, a few miles from her opponents’ home in Leeds.

After the break Lauren Winfield-Hill asked Moore, a year younger than Munro, to bowl the first ball. No mention of her identity or that she was facing her own county captain, one of England’s top batters. Then she was chosen to bowl the last set as well, with Spirit on the verge of victory. We can’t expect Kevin Pietersen to bother himself with petty details like knowing anything about the players he is commentating on. He concentrates on tactics and immediate responses to the action, leaving his audience in the dark.

Since those two youngsters were such late call-ups, they found themselves representing a franchise far from home. More logically they would have swopped affiliations; they certainly deserved more publicity.

They are only two of England’s promising youngsters; there are others such as Alice Capsey, Danielle Gibson and Grace Scrivens. None of their kind will have a chance of playing representative cricket until the pandemic allows a return of matches below England’s elite level.

We have still to find out how flexible the new world of contracts will prove to be. Even beyond the 41 domestic contracts there are plenty of players who could prove themselves at a higher level. Will players on full contracts be overlooked in favour of others in top form?

The maximum squad size is fifteen, which could in theory leave four players per franchise taking no part in proceedings. Head coaches have rung the changes in their team selections; but you can spot certain players listed at No 11 in the batting line-up who do not bowl. They are the ones staffs need to be concerned about; they must have a positive role to play.