Colin Graves ends five years as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board with regrets about his occasional use of the word “mediocre” but none regarding the Hundred, insisting its detractors are simply resistant to change.
The 72-year-old, vying to become the next chairman of the International Cricket Council, was presented with a signed England shirt by Joe Root on the outfield before his final Test in the job and passes the baton on to Ian Watmore next month.
Speaking to the broadcast partners Sky and BBC on day one of the third Test, Graves admitted “kicking himself” when he publicly used the word “mediocre” to describe West Indies before a 1-1 draw in 2015, and then again in reference to the T20 Blast in 2016.
The Blast comment came when making the case for the new short-form tournament that eventually became the Hundred; delayed by 12 months due to Covid-19, he admitted getting the controversial project off the ground was his biggest challenge.
Graves told Test Match Special: “It will be different, a different form of entertainment. One or two mischievous people put it out [that it wasn’t for existing supporters]. Certain journalists, certain stakeholders tried to undermine it. That didn’t help but when it came to the vote of 41 stakeholders it was 38-3 – that to me is unanimous.
“I think people in cricket don’t like change,” he told Sky. “I don’t think they realised we’re trying to attract this new audience – women, children, families – which we never really had coming to cricket. I know that even some countries abroad – India in particular – are looking at the Hundred and have been talking to me about it over the last year.
“The 1.1bn rights deal, that brought us in the region of £170m over five years [for the Hundred], also brought a broadcaster [BBC] to the table who had never been interested before. To get back on terrestrial is only going to help expose cricket even more.
“If we’ve still got Covid-19 next year and the ECB decide to play it behind closed doors the broadcast money will still come in. It would be a challenge but last week the Hundred board was very positive.”
The ECB’s group reserves dropped from a peak of £73m in 2016 to £17m in the most recent accounts, with money distributed back to the wider game. Were he to become ICC chairman, a post currently vacant, the former Costcutter magnate claims he would look to share the funds more equitably.
Graves added: “I think ICC can look at the way they share the money out from their pot because the ECB, BCCI and Cricket Australia are not reliant on it. I think the ICC could re-cut that pot in a different way with all those [other] countries to make them sustainable, because we need all the countries sustainable.”