London (AFP) – England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan believes innovations such as the planned 100-ball format must be embraced otherwise cricket “will die”.
The England and Wales Cricket Board stunned existing cricket followers by announcing last week the creation of an eight-team domestic tournament in the brand new format of 100 balls a side to start in 2020 when it had been thought they were planning a Twenty20 event to supplement their existing 18-county Blast competition.
For some fans it was one change too many to a landscape already featuring first-class, limited overs and Twenty20 cricket.
But former Ireland international Morgan, no stranger to the unorthodox in his role as a white-ball batsman, was enthusiastic.
“It sounds different, it sounds like something is there to create a really good, viable product to sell to people outside of cricket,” he told reporters at Lord’s.
“I have a lot of friends outside of cricket that would never come to a cricket match, but have already said they enjoy that there’s been a little bit of noise about it, because it’s upsetting people that already come to the game.”
He added: “And that is the point of it. We’re trying to grow the game.
“Cricket participation levels have been going down for quite a while, and we need to do something different to change the reputation of the sport, or the perceived barriers that need to be broken down in order to play the sport.
“Because if we continue to stay rigid and don’t change anything for a long period of time, the sport will die.”
– ‘Won’t kill off me’ –
Morgan was adamant supporters of traditional first-class County Championship and Test cricket had nothing to fear from the ECB’s 100-ball plan.
“It’s not designed to kill off people who love cricket,” he insisted.
“I absolutely love cricket, so it won’t kill off me.”
Morgan was speaking after the fixture schedule for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales was announced.
England have never won the showpiece one-day international event.
But since their embarrassing first-round exit at the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand, England have experienced an upturn in their 50-over fortunes.
They’ve lost just three of their past 14 home ODIs and an upbeat Morgan said: “I feel we’re growing as a team and if we play well between here and the World Cup we’ll be contenders.”
To maximise their chances, Morgan said England players involved in the Indian Premier League would be recalled early from next year’s edition of the lucrative Twenty20 tournament ahead of a five-match warm-up home ODI series against Pakistan.
“It’s something we discussed before the IPL auction this year,” said Morgan.
“It’s an important part of guys’ development but in the lead-in to a World Cup we want to be together as a side.”