The Hundred is cricket’s metanoia

“Sorry” screams my daughter as I have a Stern Word with her over the fact that she road her scooter through a muddy puddle.

“What does ‘sorry’ mean?” I ask, in that petulant parent voice that I seem to have developed innately without realising.

“I know what I’ve done wrong, and I won’t do it again”, she replies, an answer that is entirely rehearsed.

My daughter appreciates, or at least understands the principle, that sorry requires action. It requires ‘not doing it again’. It also requires doing it differently next time. Repentance. Metanoia, as the New Testament renders it in the original Greek. A full fledged U-turn, a revolutionary change of heart. It is a radical unpicking of old ways and a rebuilding from the ground up.

Real metanoia doesn’t just stand and applaud good words, it changes things. Budgets, and priorities, structures and strategies. It makes painful, inconvenient decisions. It acts to make things right.

So what about the world of English cricket? I’ve not been an observer for long, but it seems to me that it doesn’t, in fact, take very long to spot the disconnect between cricket’s heartfelt ‘sorry’ and its actions.

If cricket took repentance seriously, Yorkshire wouldn’t be on the brink of regaining its test ground status so soon after demonstrating to all and sundry exactly what a racist organization looks like. Yes, it is ‘on a journey’, and yes, the club has felt some financial and reputational pain, but certain elements within the club still appear for all the world to be treating racism like it is a conversation to be had, an ‘issue’ to be debated. While there are still ‘two sides to the conversation’, I think it reasonable to ask whether enough learning has really gone on.

But here’s a thought that won’t win me many friends, I suspect: I am increasingly of the opinion that you can tell how unrepentant cricket fans themselves are for the game’s deeply entrenched white, male, middle class tendencies, simply by watching the angry reaction to The Hundred. Yes, The Hundred might well be inflicting damage to the county game, but equally it is doing wonders for the women’s game. Just think back to the look on Emma Lamb’s face as she strode out to bat at the Oval and saw a sight she had never seen before – a capacity Oval crowd there to watch women’s cricket. A report released today by the Women’s Sport Trust found that the Hundred had significantly contributed to a record breaking year for people watching women’s sport, and that 25% of those who watched the Women’s Hundred didn’t watch any men’s cricket.

Of course, we know the arguments on the flip side: it made for a over-full (men’s) calendar, the (men’s) County Championship was pushed to the margins, the (men’s) One Day Cup was basically putting out B sides (although, side note, this did bring big opportunities for those usually at the edge of things who became first choice players overnight). But what if The Hundred is cricket’s act of repentance – its painful, radical, destabilising reorientation. Perhaps it is a moment of u-turn where it can make amends for its significant lack of equality.

I suppose what I’m saying is that if you don’t like the Hundred, don’t assume that it is squarely the ECB’s fault. Maybe look closer to home. Maybe cricket had its chance to get things right and blew it. Maybe all of this (and here I gesture wildly at the general state of English cricket) is cricket’s metanoia.

Manchester Originals' Emma Lamb reacts on her dismissal during The Hundred  match at The Kia Oval, Kennington. Picture date: Wednesday July 21, 2021  Stock Photo - Alamy

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