Cricket fan sporting the classic MCC blazerPeter Dench via Flickr

What do you picture when you hear the word “cricket”? Impractically stain-vulnerable whites? Joe Root playing neatly through the covers? Lord’s, with its pavilion jostling with Old Etonians in silly red and yellow MCC blazers? Perhaps it’s the sledging, where the collective wit of public schools across the country routinely delivers such comedy gold as “duck’s on the menu lads” or “strap in boys, this one can’t drive”. If you’re like me, it just reminds you of how much you hate Australian people.

Maybe, though, “cricket” means something very different to you. Maybe you’re eight years old and this year you went to your first cricket game at the opening day of The Hundred. In the first game you’re amazed by Smriti Mandhana’s half-century as she finds gaps effortlessly all over the pitch. Then in the men’s Chris Jordan leaves you in awe: inventive with the ball and explosive with the bat. Between the action you also love the DJ booth and the live music, but nothing beats waving your “4” or “6” card in the air when there’s a boundary. Importantly, however, your favourite team isn’t just 11 players, but 22. Your favourite players aren’t just Jos Buttler and Will Jacks, but also Nat Sciver-Brunt and Suzie Bates. Because of the double-header format for each game, being a fan of the Trent Rockets means being a fan of the men’s and women’s, and “cricket” for you is a game for girls just as it is for boys.

This August sees the start of The Hundred’s third season, an original cricketing format which gives both teams one hundred balls to score as many runs as possible. The change is part of an effort to make cricket more easily understood by first-time fans, and it’s necessary, because there have been plenty of them. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) reported that in 2022, 42% of the 14.1 million viewers hadn’t watched any ECB cricket that year, so there were 5.9 million fresh pairs of eyes on the game. More revolutionary than any rule change, however, is The Hundred’s promotion of women’s cricket. Both genders play back to back games at the same venue, and many tickets include both the men’s and women’s games. These changes meant that every venue broke its attendance record for women’s cricket, and the game reached a new audience; last year out of the 500,000 spectators in the grounds, 22% were children and 28% were women. The Hundred is drawing a big crowd, but vitally it is a new and young one, which means it can determine what “cricket” means to the next generation of fans.

And the game is in dire need of a rebrand. After last year’s Yorkshire County Cricket Club racism scandal, this June saw the ICEC’s comprehensive investigation into discrimination. The findings were even more damning. It identified that “an elitist and exclusionary culture exists at all levels of cricket”, citing the private school dominance as a major reason. As a whole the game was labelled “misogynistic, homophobic and ableist”. (Point 5.2.5)

Specifically detailing the sexism, the investigators state in point 1.2.22:

“Women and women’s teams are frequently demeaned, stereotyped and treated as second-class. This included misogynistic and derogatory comments about women and girls, and everyday sexism.”


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Sadly, I could fill this article with many more similar excerpts. Is The Hundred going to solve all these issues? Obviously not, but it’s encouraging as a wider plan from the ECB, showing that they aren’t afraid to make radical changes to cricketing culture. The players themselves also see the competition as vital in altering the perception of cricket. Tammy Beaumont stated that it’s the “double-header [format] that has been the game-changer”, and that the competition “has been brilliant” for women’s cricket because for the first time the women’s game has been taken seriously next to the men’s.

But The Hundred is under threat. It is not yet making enough money to sustain itself, and the format has been accused of taking attention off T20 cricket for a less competitive and commercially viable game. The argument is persuasive in the fact that T20 cricket is an international format, but the new market that The Hundred has reached is invaluable. Over the last ten years participation in cricket for young girls has skyrocketed, and financial loss now must be expected for a long term reward. The value of 5.9 million new viewers, audiences which are 28% children, and record attendances for women’s games will produce incredible value in the future.

More than that, though, The Hundred is a piece of the ECB’s vision for expanding and diversifying its sport. Because of the new competition, cricket has become a leader in the push for more welcoming, accepting, and equal sporting opportunities. And I believe that in 10 or 15 years if I ask one of these fans to picture “cricket”, their response will be very different from ours.