West Indian star Chris Gayle was overlooked as the eight teams for next year’s inaugural season of The Hundred took shape in a televised player draft that saw Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan emerge as number one pick.
After months of talking and plenty of divided opinions, the new 100-ball domestic competition took shape in a live televised event where each of the city-based franchises filled out their rosters from a field of 571 names, in a studio setting that looked more like a prime-time quiz show than a traditional selection meeting.
But for all the showbiz trappings, Gayle’s A-list status was not enough to earn him one of the 96 contracts dished out on the night.
With Dwayne Bravo and Lasith Malinga also failing to draw interest, that means the tournament will take place without Twenty20 cricket’s top run-scorer and its two leading wicket-takers, all of whom had entered at the top reserve price of £125,000.
Instead it was a member of the next generation, 21-year-old mystery spinner Rashid, who was widely touted as the prime pick and he was duly awarded the honour of being chosen first by Trent Rockets.
Lancashire all-rounder Liam Livingstone was the only Englishman to earn the maximum payday, grabbed in the opening round by Birmingham Phoenix, but Sam Billings, Phil Salt, Liam Dawson, Tom Abell, Ravi Bopara and Lewis Gregory all commanded six-figure fees.
Of the 13 individuals who landed the £125,000, almost half were Australian with Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc heading to Welsh Fire, while David Warner (Southern Brave), Aaron Finch (Northern Superchargers), Glenn Maxwell (London Spirit) and D’arcy Short (Trent Rockets) also cashed in.
Andre Russell was the day’s second pick, by Southampton’s Southern Brave, with Sunil Narine and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman also among the highest earners.
Manchester Originals – coached by former Australia batsman Simon Katich – made the two most surprising early calls by investing a combined £250,000 in 40-year-old leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who had a base price of just £60,000, and the relatively unheralded Dane Vilas.
Two of England’s World Cup-winning XI were available, Mark Wood paired with Lord’s-based London Spirit on a £75,000 deal and Liam Plunkett making £50,000 with Welsh Fire.
On a domestic level the competition for places left a handful of notable current or former England cricketers on the outside, including Olly Stone, Samit Patel, Jamie Overton, Sam Hain, Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke and Steven Finn.
Kieron Pollard of the West Indies also finds himself at a loose end having set a £100,000 base.
The likes of Luke Wright, Craig Overton, Laurie Evans, Jade Dernbach, Riki Wessels and Luke Fletcher – all experienced short-form campaigners – must have been fearing the same fate but were chosen in the final round at the minimum £30,000 bracket.
Shane Warne, head coach of London Spirit, suggested Gayle, Malinga and Bravo were left unsold because they had overreached with their reserves.
“I think they priced themselves wrong,” he said.
“If they’d gone in at £100,000 and not £125,000 I think they’d have been picked up.”
Northern Superchargers counterpart Darren Lehmann added: “It was a tough one, they’ve been superstars for so long but then the next generation is knocking on the door…you’ve only got two picks at £125,000.”
England’s man of the moment, Ben Stokes, who edged Test captain Joe Root as the landmark pick of the Headingley side, believes the competition represents a step up for the domestic calendar.
“Oh yes, 100 per cent. Every game will be a big game, with so many people watching and playing against the very best in the world,” he said.
“I think we look like the best team on paper as we’ve got all bases covered: power, spin and Ben Foakes as keeper – he’s the best in England.”
Smith, who scored runs relentlessly in the recent Ashes series, appeared via videolink from Sydney to voice his approval of an enterprise that has been greeted with mixed opinions at home.
“It’s going to be exciting, the first ever 100-ball comp and I’m looking forward to joining Jonny Bairstow and Mitchell Starc,” he said.
“It’s a bit different and it’ll be a learning curve for the first few games but it’s exciting.”
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Rohit Sharma described his maiden Test double century as his “most challenging” knock after he put India in command of the third Test against South Africa at the end of Day 2.
The opener, who hit twin tons in the first Test of the series, made 212 in the first innings at Ranchi as India declared their innings on 497 for nine.
“I (have) played only 30 Tests,” said Sharma. “In terms of what was thrown at me, I would definitely say it was probably the most challenging one.”
“Having played only three Tests as an opener, I know I have a long way to go. Of course I will take a lot of positives but I’m not reading too much into it,” he added.
The 32-year-old also lauded vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane – with whom he shared a massive 267-run partnership – for scoring his 11th Test hundred. He acknowledged Rahane’s ability to thrive under pressure and his consistency in the longer format.
“We have seen him for a long time. The way he has taken forward his Test career. He has always rescued the team from difficult circumstances,” said Sharma of Rahane.
“He has not done this in just one or two innings, but he’s been doing it consistently. It shows how strong mentally he is and the hunger for runs. We have seen this not only in India and outside.”
India is aiming for a whitewash after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead going into third match. At the end of Day 2 in the final Test, South Africa trail by 488 runs with eight wickets remaining in the first innings.
Wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik is hoping to make the cut for the Indian squad to play in the ICC T20 World Cup to be held in Australia in 2020. Karthik, who captains Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, is seeking to impress in domestic competitions to remind the selectors of his value to the team as a lower-order batsman.
In the past two years, the 34-year-old has played the most number of games as a ‘finisher’ for India, batting between positions No.6 to No.8. Karthik has scored 249 runs in 20 games in that interim with a healthy strike-rate of 161.68.
The crowning moment of Karthik’s T20I career was when he produced a stunning cameo of 29 off eight balls, including a last-ball six, in the Nidahas Trophy final in Colombo last year. He walked in to bat at No.7 with the team needing 34 runs off the final two overs to win the match against Bangladesh.
“It’s [World Cup] a year away but if I feel I can keep performing and have a good [domestic] tournament, I’m sure I will go out there and play,” Karthik, told ESPNcricinfo. “Because, I feel it’s a key part that the Indian team is looking out as well – closing out matches and have someone who can understand those situations and do the best at that point of time.
“And I feel I’ve done that in the short time I’d played T20s. But, post the World Cup, I didn’t play; they clubbed it [poor form at the World Cup] with the T20 part of it and removed me from the team as well. But I feel that I’m well-suited to play that role MS Dhoni has played for so many years now.
“I feel I can do something like that and I’ve been doing that for KKR and Tamil Nadu. So, if a slot opens up there, that’s something I’ll be really looking forward to. The T20 World Cup is definitely something I’d want to play.”
He has been in sensational form for his state team Tamil Nadu in the ongoing Vijay Hazare trophy, India’s List-A tournament. Walking in at No.6, he has scored four fifties and been instrumental in his team’s nine-match winning run in the tournament.
“I want to bat in the toughest conditions and in the place where I can give others the opportunity to play and in the hardest times in the match I think I can use my experience,” he said.
“As someone who has been with Tamil Nadu for so long, I feel all the tough moments could be handled by somebody like me. And in those moments I could have somebody young with me and I could guide him along those lines. So, that’s the role I’m doing here.”