The Hundred hailed as ‘great for English cricket’
IF The Hundred is cricket’s Brexit then Will Fraine is firmly in the remain camp as opposed to the one that would rather leave the whole thing behind.
The Yorkshire batsman believes that the 100-ball competition is great for English cricket and, in particular, those young players who are now getting their chance in the concurrent Royal London Cup – not least at Yorkshire, who have fielded six one-day debutants in the tournament to date: Harry Duke, George Hill, Will Luxton, Matthew Revis, Jack Shutt and Josh Sullivan.
“My opinion of The Hundred is very high,” said Fraine, who might be playing in it himself before long after hammering the fastest one-day half-century in Yorkshire’s history, from just 19 balls, in an eight-wicket win against Derbyshire on Sunday.
“I think it’s great – great for English cricket, and great for the youngsters now getting their opportunity in the 50-over comp.
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“Yes, The Hundred has taken some very talented lads out of the (county) squads, but it’s giving players that we wouldn’t have seen valuable experience at first-team level.
“A lot of the Yorkshire fans probably wouldn’t have heard of some of the lads that we’ve fielded in this comp, and it’s good to show them the depth of our squad.”
Fraine baulks at the idea that the 50-over Cup is now a glorified second-team tournament.
There have been more than 100 List A debutants this season, reflecting, to a significant extent, the talent drain caused by The Hundred.
However, the 25-year-old insists that the standard has still been high, with Yorkshire on the brink of knockout qualification going into their final group game against Glamorgan in Cardiff on Thursday.
“This is not a second team comp; we’ve come up against some very good teams,” said Fraine.
“Surrey are a massive club with a lot of depth, Somerset the same. Leicestershire have been at pretty much full strength and Northants, too. Warwickshire’s batting has been strong, and so on.
“I think this competition is showing the depth that exists in the county game. I think there’s a lot of depth around the circuit, and The Hundred has allowed for that depth to be shown and it’s going to make lads get better quicker because you only get better playing first-team cricket and playing in front of crowds and handling the pressure. You only learn lessons from doing that.
“This comp is helping lads to get first-team experience and to get more confidence. It’s been great, really strong in my view.”
What about the counter-argument that The Hundred is detracting from the County Championship and, by definition, the fortunes of the Test team?
Opposition to The Hundred among existing cricket supporters, after all, has been significant, with 63 per cent coming out against it in a recent survey conducted by the Cricket Supporters’ Association (CSA), to name but one poll.
“I do see the other arguments and how people maybe look at it as a money-grabbing thing, but it’s drawing in more crowds, it’s drawing in a new generation, and it’s for the younger generation growing up,” added Fraine.
“It’s the way the game’s going, it’s entertaining, it’s exciting, but I don’t think that’s pulling away from red-ball cricket, especially for the counties.
“Our winter (at Yorkshire) is very red-ball dominant. It’s very focused on trying to get better (in the Championship).
“Red-ball is always going to be the best and hardest format and the one that challenges you the most.”
Fraine continued: “At the end of the day, everybody here (at Yorkshire) wants to be a Test cricketer. Everybody who plays the game dreams of playing for England.
“So I get what some people are trying to say (about The Hundred), but we’ve still got 14 first-class games – potentially 15 if you get through to the Bob Willis Trophy final – so you’ve got a lot of red-ball cricket there.
“The game is moving in the right direction, and the argument that The Hundred is going to weaken the game is not true in my opinion.
“We’re bringing through the younger players, the younger generation, and I think that the positives outweigh any negatives.”
Fraine, who hails from Huddersfield, struck an unbeaten 69 – his highest one-day score – in that game against Derbyshire at Chesterfield on Sunday, which was reduced by rain to 10 overs per side.
He hits a long ball, as the saying goes, peppering Queen’s Park with five fours and four sixes in a top-class display.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted to get off my back – a major score in a way, something that somebody looks at and says, ‘Oh, he got runs today’,” added Fraine.
“It’s something that’s not haunted me, but it has frustrated me, and although I’m still a work in progress, I think I’m getting to know my strengths better and it was really pleasing to get a score and to contribute to a great team win.”