ANDREW RADD: No teams, players, fixtures or sponsors – so how can we be crazy for The Hundred?
The story goes that a certain celebrity whose chaotic lifestyle was the stuff of legend sat down one day to write his memoirs.
Within minutes he realised there was a problem.
Such was the quantity and variety of substances he had devoured in his roistering heyday that recalling incidents and anecdotes with any degree of certainty was well-nigh impossible.
Hence a personal ad that appeared in The Times: ‘If anyone happens to know what I was doing between 1963 and 1974, could they kindly get in touch soonest?’
Now, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about my own recent absence from these pages.
The selection of stimulants available under a pile of dead leaves in a distant corner of Milton Road is very limited indeed.
And being enveloped in dodgy-smelling organic matter has other drawbacks too.
For example, it’s easy to either miss or mishear what’s going on in the outside world.
I could have sworn someone said the hundred – sorry, The Hundred – was already taking the nation by storm.
Grounds due to stage matches in the new competition next summer were drafting in police to control the crowds of eager punters desperate to make sure they don’t miss a single ball of this exciting and innovative format.
That’s what I thought they said, anyway…
But when I emerged blinking into the light last week and read Jonathan Liew’s superb article for the Independent it suggested the signals had been muffled by all that leaf-mould.
According to Liew, The Hundred ‘still has no teams, no players, no fixtures, no sponsors, no playing hours and only the barest of operable frameworks’.
Some of what we DO know is troubling.
He points out that the inaugural player auction isn’t due to take place until October, meaning a county could sign a player for 2020 – only for him to be ‘bought’ by a different Hundred franchise, removing said player for weeks when he’ll be working with a completely different coaching and support team. Genius.
And what about those franchises?
Northamptonshire have apparently been bracketed with Middlesex and Essex, based at Lord’s. Could be an expensive day out to watch a team that – surely – no Steelbacks supporter will give one hoot about, let alone two.
There are so many objections to the whole farrago.
Some are relatively trivial – like why is it necessary to earmark millions of pounds for ‘event production’ (fireworks, dancers and other vacuous gimmicks) in the first year alone?
Any officer of any local club in Northamptonshire will tell you just a fraction of that expenditure could be put to infinitely better use in encouraging participation in our game and improving facilities.
Altogether more serious is the scope it offers ECB to create ‘super-counties’ based on the Test grounds, and for the rest of us…well, use your imagination.
The justification for this competition has been the financial boost it will give the existing first-class clubs.
But will the promised £1.3 million annual windfall actually amount to that? Watch this space.
Around the same time as I heard – or thought I heard – the guff about The Hundred, rumours reached my hibernation hidey-hole that the NCL had decided to streamline its rules at last.
No longer would our Saturday afternoon cricket be governed by an array of regulations and guidelines longer (in terms of wordage) than the Book of Genesis.
Celebratory gin and tonic-flavoured cup cakes and lashings of ginger beer all round.
Well, the ‘cut-down’ version of the rules which appears in the NCL handbook filled 39 pages in 2018. This year it’s been slashed to a mere…42 pages.
And whose fault is that? Not the league’s officials.
If clubs want less complicated formats with less administrative bureaucracy we have to start voting for it.
But enough of the Moaning Minnie stuff.
It was back in 1990 that the still-much-missed Ian Davidson commissioned this column, which means it’s now rattling and clanking into its 30th season.
Readers who’ve stuck with it from the start surely deserve a medal – or at least a packet of Tooty Frooties before (horror of horrors) they disappear from the shops after 60 years.
‘Tastes and trends change,’ said the sweet’s manufacturers last week. ‘They have become much less popular in the decades since their launch.’
A statement from Nestle, or ECB marketing whizzkids talking about County Championship matches? I wonder.
Have a great season.
There are some gaps to be filled in the wall
Northamptonshire’s new ‘Captains’ Wall’ should be unveiled in the County Ground’s Spencer Pavilion very soon.
It will feature images of the 40-odd individuals officially appointed to lead the side since 1878. Most of them, anyway.
Unfortunately, the club’s archivist (an appalling slacker) has so far failed to locate photos of three early skippers – Charles Radcliffe Thursby, THG ‘Tommy’ Welch and Ted Scriven.
Thursby, a member of the prominent Harlestone family, is probably better remembered these days as the husband of Alice Brisbane Thursby – one of the best-known subjects of the artist John Singer Sargent.
Charles was a naval officer and civil engineer and made his County debut in 1886, also turning out for Free Foresters.
He succeeded Jim Kingston as captain in 1888 but didn’t appear after that season as business took him abroad frequently.
Thomas Henry Gascoigne
‘Tommy’ Welch was born (like Thursby) in 1857 and became a schoolmaster.
He lived for a time in Blakesley, skippered the team in 1889 and his son – also Thomas – played occasionally for Northamptonshire in the 1920s.
A farmer from Harpole, Scriven represented the club on-and-off for 15 years with a single season as skipper in 1893.
Anyone with a photograph of
any of these three gentlemen
would earn the NCCC archivist’s undying gratitude.
In the meantime, a captaincy-related factoid to be going on with.
Alex Wakely has now led Northamptonshire 185 times in all formats, going into this weekend’s first-class friendly against Durham MCCU at Wantage Road.
That means he should reach the
200 mark this season – a
milestone only achieved previously by Jim Watts, Geoff Cook and Allan Lamb.
Illustrious company for ‘Wakers’ – and deservedly so.
Read Andrew Radd's column every Thursday through the summer in the Northamptonshire Telegraph