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Thoughts on The Hundred – Part Six – Franchises

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Just before we reach the climax of the newest cricket competition, let’s have a look a fundamental decision the planners took, the eight franchises.

Spoiler warning: I try in vain to find a defence of franchises in cricket.

Last year the ECB announced eight new regional hubs to improve the organisation of women’s cricket in England. They received widespread approval and saw an immediate upturn in playing standards and a clear pathway for ambitious youngsters.

This excellent pattern was not followed in The Hundred.

New names were invented, new centres established, new coaching staffs appointed, new kits designed, new squads pulled together in the most difficult of circumstances.

The ECB defended these innovations. Now we reach the end of the opening stage of the competition, has everything worked out as planned?

The one completely new franchise, Welsh Fire, has almost predictably found the going toughest. They have suffered in exactly the same way as the Sunrisers in the preceding Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy: a new centre (then Chelmsford, now Cardiff), and players pulled in from all-over the place. The Sunrisers represent nine (9) counties, Welsh Fire are noticeably lacking in Welsh representation (one player).

In one sense it was a sensible gesture to include Wales in the structures, after all the ECB is strictly the England and Wales Cricket Board, though they are perfectly happy to omit the W in their acronym. But how much natural sympathy can a collection of players from all over the country (and the world) evoke, when home-grown talent is so thin on the ground?

The alternative centre was Bristol, which would have been a more natural meeting-point for players from the west country (the captain is Sophie Luff from Somerset), but other arguments prevailed

It was pure coincidence that their chosen head coach, Matthew Mott, was unable to make the journey from Australia. Mark (Sparky) O’Leary replaced him in July.

Just like Sunrisers in the other competition they find themselves bottom of the table, despite the late and welcome addition of Sarah Taylor (of Sussex) to their ranks.

Across the other seven franchises we see a totally confusing patchwork of players. More often than not they find themselves competing against friends from the eight regional hubs and their native counties. A sense of identity, of belonging to a common cause, has been lost. Only Manchester Originals retain a large core of players familiar from playing for Lancashire and (Northwest) Thunder.

Katherine Brunt does not play for Northern Superchargers. Georgia Adams does not play for Southern Brave.

And the overseas players only add to the confusion. A few were already familiar figures in English cricket, but they and the newcomers were distributed across the country at a purchaser’s whim.

Five days before the final everything points to yet another win for Charlotte Edwards, now in charge of Southern Brave. She had great success leading Southern Vipers (why the change of identity?), then received the honour of having her name added to the new T20 trophy competition that was the second of the three tournaments the ECB has introduced in short order.