Fran Wilson once belonged to the tribe of English cricketers who were sceptical about the Hundred.
But as soon as she pulled on the Oval Invincibles shirt alongside the likes of Jason Roy and Sam Curran, she realised change isn’t such a bad thing after all, writes Ella Jerman.
The announcement of the ECB’s plans to launch a new 100-ball format last year was met with scrutiny and scepticism by players and fans alike, but few knew that for the women’s game, it offers an opportunity greater than ever before.
It may have taken a while for Wilson, who won the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup on home soil with England, to realise its potential, but after getting the chance to line up alongside the male World Cup heroes of this summer at the competition’s launch in London, she has been completely bowled over by the idea.
“I won’t lie, I was very sceptical when The Hundred was announced last year, but after having learned more about why it’s happening, I’ve changed my mind,” said Wilson, speaking at a TeamUp event in Marylebone, London.
“Being at the launch with Oval Invincibles and all the other teams turned me into a massive convert. It was so exciting to see it all come together.
“I’ve been in cricket for a while now and you quickly become accustomed to the same formats and it’s difficult because there’s so much tradition involved, which leads us to being quite narrow-minded.
“I don’t tend to like change. That’s probably why I was sceptical but now I think having this flagship competition is so important for the game.
“We need to work on bringing in families and young kinds into the sport. Now, on the back of two World Cup wins, it’s the perfect time for the Hundred to come in and take cricket to the next level.”
The inaugural 100-ball competition, which will be contested by eight city-based teams, takes place next summer from 17 July to 16 August.
While the men’s draft is on Sunday, selections for the women’s squad will take place between now and 30 May, with teams adding 13 names to the two centrally contracted female England players they have already recruited – Wilson and Laura Marsh being the picks for the Oval Invincibles.
The competition is shaping up to be an exciting one for the women’s game, with the Oval Invincibles set to play one back-to-back game with the men’s side, while eight games from the women’s competition will be broadcast live on the BBC,
The launch of the Hundred comes at a good time, too, with the ECB having launched an action plan to transform women’s cricket earlier this month, investing an unprecedented £20m of funding over the next two years.
To drive cricket’s progress to becoming a truly gender-balanced sport, we are investing in every level of the game – from grassroots to the elite game, alongside supporting female coaches, officials and administrators. #InspiringGenerations
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) October 8, 2019
For Wilson, there has certainly never been a better time to be a woman in cricket and she is convinced the competition will help bridge the gender gap in the sport.
“It’s especially important for the female game because we need The Hundred to fund our domestic structure, and our domestic structure is so key to international success,” added Wilson.
“When we were at the launch with the guys from the Oval Invincibles, it immediately felt like we were all part of the same team.
“I’m hoping we can use The Hundred to reach out to new audiences. When I was younger, there was little opportunity to do cricket in school, now it’s fantastic to see it being introduced in girls’ curriculum.
“Even today, when you go to most cricket clubs you realise they aren’t built for girls. I do value where I came from, playing in boys sides, but I’m hoping The Hundred will be just one of the many little things we can do to make a difference.”
TeamUp is an initiative created by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), England Hockey and England Netball to increase the number of young girls playing team sport in schools by maximising the legacy of hosting three home World Cups from 2017 to 2019.
London schools can still apply for free support and experiences through TeamUp, including teacher training, coaching and athlete school visits, by registering online at www.teamupengland.com.