The ECB’s flagship tournament, The Hundred, kicked off in 2021 amid a storm of fervent fan-fair and purist doubt.
Having been pushed back a year, the sparkling new format was rolled out to fans across the UK alongside DJs, live music and a heap of other fantastic entertainment.
While it was the on-field action that was the main attraction, the ECB did everything they could to ensure that fans were enveloped in a pseudo cricketing reality that would have them desperate to come back for more.
It worked a treat as well, especially among young fans, with the stands packed to the brim with families and children – many of whom were at the cricket for the first time.
Now, with the second addition rapidly approaching, we sat down and spoke to England star Saqib Mahmood to get his thoughts on the tournament and the format.
Saqib Mahmood was speaking following The Hundred Draft, having been selected to play for Oval Invincibles in the summer’s ultimate sport and entertainment event.
The Hundred throws cricket’s doors open to a new audience of fans, treating you to a combination of live music and world-class men’s and women’s sporting talent.
Saqib Mahmood on The Hundred
Saqib obviously we’ve had the first year of The Hundred. How excited are you for the second season to get underway and for everything that the hundred is doing for the English game?
Yeah I’m really excited! I think the tournament last year exceeded all of our already high expectations, myself included.
It was great and obviously looking forward to this year as well. I think for the last few months we’ve been looking forward to it, you’re waiting on draft day and obviously that’s finally come around.
Having a squad put together and knowing who your teammates are going to be is one of the final steps to getting out there and playing again!
One thing we saw a lot of last year, was a lot of youngsters coming down to matches with their families, which is so encouraging for cricket. Are you expecting The Hundred to be even bigger and better with even more people down this year?
Yeah I would like to think so and I’d like to think the people who came to watch last year will want to come back as well.
It’s definitely a great occasion to be a part of as a player, but also you see the enjoyment in the crowd and every game was pretty much full. I’d like to think those people will come back and also the people who didn’t come last year will probably want to come down as well.
With kids, obviously they’re going to school and speaking to their friends about it and it’s things like that that help, so hopefully there will be even more people coming this year.
As a player do you get a feeling of additional excitement because there are so many youngsters at the matches loving being at the cricket for the evening?
Yeah, and obviously as a player, if I can be an inspiration for even one child wanting to play the game and take on the game, then you know that’s obviously my job sort of done, as it’s all about inspiring the next generation. It’s great to see a lot of kids at the stadiums watching the games.
It’s amazing! Like I said, if you know we can carry on inspiring the younger generation, then it bodes well for the sport in the future.
The Hundred has a bit more excitement in terms of there being DJs and live music. Does it help that you have those things in The Hundred to captivate fans in a way that other formats of cricket might not?
I suppose it’s just a bit of added entertainment outside of the cricket, and it gives certain things to look forward to outside of just the cricket as well. Obviously American sports do that side of it very well, and you see the way they do it for the Super Bowl.
I’m not saying it’s quite like that but it’s especially great for kids if you can provide entertainment outside of the game itself, and they’ve got multiple things to look forward to, so it’s great for the kids with the DJs and the fireworks!
Have you found that you’ve had to personally adapt your game a bit to play in The Hundred versus other formats and has that been a challenge if so?
I’d say there’s always and element of adapting, but I think it’s a case of mindset. For me, it’s how I bowl, how to set up overs and things like that.
It’s a big change, although it doesn’t sound like it, but going from six balls to five balls and also the potential of bowling two sets of five in a row makes you think about the tactics, where the captain comes into it a lot more.
Definitely a lot more than T20cricket because I think there’s a more tactical side to the game, and all of these things are exciting.
I think captains will have gone away and tried to figure out how they can play the game better. I don’t think anyone’s cracked this format yet, so all of these things are still exciting and people want to come back with their new ideas and skill sets and try and be the one who can almost be the first to crack the game.
There are some people who might not yet have come round to the idea of The Hundred. What would you say to the purists or those people to get them to get them on board this year?
For me, from the beginning, I’ve said it’s just to be open-minded. For someone like me, I’m very much still wanting to play Test cricket and I think this is just another format which, as an athlete and as a competitor, you really want to be a part of.
So for me I’d say just be open-minded about it. It’s something new which might seem like it’s not for you, but give it a chance and you might get a lot of fun out of watching the game as well.
You’re part of an Oval Invincible squad that effortlessly blends both English talent and overseas talent. Is there anyone that you particularly like to challenge yourself bowling at in the nets in the team?
I think obviously Jason Roy is a world-class operator so obviously training and bowling against him in the nets is always going to be challenging. Hopefully he doesn’t hit too many back! But that’s obviously the quality within the dressing room we have, to be challenging each other in the nets will improve everyone’s game.
Jase is obviously a world-class talent and to have him in our ranks is great. Maybe not great fun bowling and falling 22 yards away in in the nets but luckily it’s just in the nets and not out in the middle!
You have a pretty well-rounded squad at Oval Invincibles; do you feel as though you are capable of going all the way this year?
Yeah, I think from our side especially, we felt like there was a little bit of an unfinished business. We
played good cricket last year and we just didn’t quite manage to qualify.
We finished fourth in the end with the top three qualifying so for us we didn’t feel like we played our best cricket as a squad on a consistent basis. If we can if we can manage to do that this year, then I think we’ll be in a great position.
The other good thing that we have in our favour, if we can carry it on, is that we didn’t lose a game at The Oval last year.
I think home advantage will be key so if we can if we can have a similar trend this year, then it’s obviously just about winning the games on the road.
Obviously with the packed houses, they have a big effect because they really supporting the home side. Look at our team and a lot of other teams, they lost a lot of the games on the road and managed to win at home with that level of support.
I think that’s something which a lot of our players have experienced now and something to look forward to, which doesn’t come as quite as much of a shock as it may have done last year.
The Hundred kicks off on 3rd August with last year’s winners Southern Brave vs Welsh Fire. Tickets are priced at £5 for U16 and free for children under 5 years of age. Get your tickets online now at www.thehundred.com/tickets