The ECB has considered introducing 10-over cricket to the English domestic game, after it emerged that talks have taken place between high-level ECB officials and the owner of the inaugural T10 league in the UAE.
ESPNcricinfo understands that a meeting took place in March between Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, and Shaji Ul Mulk, the founder of the T10 league, at which the possibility of bringing the format to England was discussed.
There is no suggestion at this stage that T10 cricket is being lined up to replace the existing plans for “The Hundred”, despite the outspoken criticism of the proposed new competition in recent days.
However, given an already crowded domestic calendar that features first-class and 50-over cricket as well as the planned continuation of the T20 Blast, the introduction of a fifth format of the game would doubtless raise eyebrows.
Instead, it is thought that the format could be under consideration as an extension of the ECB’s wide-ranging participation remit, to be treated as a separate entity, much like Rugby Sevens, with a view to bridging the gap between the recreational and professional games.
It has also been suggested that the meeting, which took place in Dubai, may have been part of an ECB fact-finding mission, with the board keen to leave no stone unturned as they formulate their vision for the game from 2020 onwards. Women’s softball is understood to be another sport from which officials have recently sought learnings.
Neither the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) nor the ECB’s own working party examining the future structure of the game appear to have had any prior knowledge of the meeting.
The inaugural T10 competition, run by the Emirates Cricket Board, took place in Sharjah last December, with several English players receiving no-objections certificates to take part – not least the limited-overs captain, Eoin Morgan, and Alex Hales, for whom the competition marked a return to action after he missed the end of the 2017 season due to his involvement in the Ben Stokes incident in Bristol.
That tournament, which was won by Kerala Kings, was enough of a success for the format to be expanded from six teams to eight for the 2018 edition, with the next event to be played out over ten days instead of four.
The status of the ECB’s new city-based competition is currently up in the air, with the original proposal for The Hundred – 15 six-ball overs and a solitary ten-ball over – being scrapped following opposition from the PCA.
Recent reports suggest that the concept could be tweaked to 20 five-ball overs, with the option of a single bowler completing ten balls in a row if the match situation warranted it.
Were it to be considered as a direct replacement for the Hundred, T10 would at least retain cricket’s traditional parameters. Also, given that the ECB’s own findings suggest that the length of matches is the most off-putting aspect of the sport as it stands, the move from 120 balls in an innings to 60 would presumably meet the criteria for attracting a new audience.