England & Wales Cricket Board Chair Colin Graves launched a "robust" defense of his running of the ECB and "challenged his critics to put up or shut up on the proposed new Hundred tournament," according to Nick Hoult of the London TELEGRAPH. Graves "threatened to strip" Surrey County Cricket Club of the right to host one of the Hundred matches after it branded the tournament "laughable." He also insisted the tournament "will help cricket reach a lost audience" that has been put off by the sport’s "fuddy duddy" image. Additionally, Graves "revealed he suspected he was the target of a failed coup among his opponents within the county game." Emboldened by the backing he received last week at the ECB board's AGM -- where he was re-elected unanimously -- Graves "is in a fighting mood," wanting to get on the "front foot" and answer his critics. Surrey CCC is "chief among the latter, and the relationship between county cricket’s wealthiest club and the ECB is now at an all-time low." The Oval has been picked as one of eight host venues but unless Surrey comes "on board, that could change." Graves: "If anyone thinks that it is a laughingstock, then I totally disagree. This has gone through our Twenty20 board, the ECB board, we talked to the hierarchy of the PCA. ... It is exciting and I think it is fantastic opportunity to launch a new form of cricket. It is not at the expense of the others. We all want county cricket, test cricket and T20 but it is something to attract a new audience and expand the reach of what we do" (TELEGRAPH, 5/14).
'GREAT PLACE': In London, Mike Atherton wrote Graves hammered his finger down "time and again" to emphasize his point, saying, "Cricket is not in turmoil. It’s in a great place." Graves, a "dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshireman," is "nothing if not sure of his ground, and buoyed by the recent vote to extend his stay" as an ECB director. He said, "After the last two months of shit I’ve had, I’ve just been re-elected to the board 41-0. 41-0: make sure you put that in." But "as he well knows, the unsettled feeling among traditional cricket supporters (and players) that radical change is coming" and with it "all kinds of uncertainty." He said, "The reaction [to the new tournament] was disappointing, but to be expected because a lot of it is in its infancy. It’s only a concept, there’s a lot of work to do with it and, when we do that work and put it out to the public and players, they will see it in a different light" (LONDON TIMES, 5/15).
DIVIDING THE WORKLOAD: Hoult also reported Graves gave a "further indication that England’s coaching job will be split" between test and one-day specialists after Trevor Bayliss leaves his job next year. Bayliss is due to stand down after the Ashes series in England next summer. ECB Dir of Cricket Andrew Strauss "will be in charge of recruiting his successor and will have the final decision." Graves "will be an important voice in the process and was consulted by Strauss for advice before appointing Ed Smith as lead selector last month." Graves said of splitting the coaching roles, "I think it is asking a lot to be honest. Having been away for the winter for a long time, I think it is asking a lot from one man" (TELEGRAPH, 5/14).
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The BBC reported Graves said that young people are "just not attracted to cricket," which is why a new 100-ball competition is being proposed. He said that the 100-ball format "is set in stone," but other details "are still being discussed." Graves: "It is not attracting the audiences. If it was, we would not have that issue. The younger generation, whether you like it our not, are just not attracted to cricket. In all the work, surveys and research we have done, the younger generation want something different" (BBC, 5/14).