England’s watershed World Cup win has dealt cricket “a huge adrenaline shot” in its bid to find a new audience.
That is the view of Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who watched Eoin Morgan’s men land the trophy for the first time on Sunday in one of the most exciting contests to unfold on British soil.
Harrison, who took over at the governing body in 2015, has spent much of his four years in charge nurturing the twin goals of World Cup glory and a drastic overhaul of the sport’s status in the country at large.
Success in the first was always likely to help with the second and he hopes the dramatic scenes at Lord’s, witnessed by the largest television audience since the 2005 Ashes, will prove to be lightning in a bottle for the ECB’s wider aims.
“To win the World Cup on home soil is a very special thing, and to do it the way it went down was extraordinary. It captured the imagination of the nation,” he told PA.
“I thought I’d seen everything but isn’t it wonderful how sport comes along on the biggest stage of all and delivers that kind of ending? What I do know is we’ve now got a wonderful opportunity to grow the game on the back of these sensational cricketers.
“This was a huge adrenaline shot for the game, and it gives us a massive chance to take those plans forward really quickly.”
Central to those plans is The Hundred, the ECB’s new city-based franchise tournament which launches next year and will be partially broadcast on free-to-air alongside men’s and women’s Twenty20 internationals.
Hopes are high new fans who had their first exposure to cricket over the weekend, not to mention lapsed followers, will be among those tuning in.
The level of engagement with the closing moments of the final – which centred around tied totals, the rarely seen ‘super over’ and the niche determinant of a boundary countback – is at odds with Harrison’s belief that the sport needs to be simpler to understand to reach the widest constituency.
Harrison has seen enough, though, to be sure the enthusiasm is out there to make it a success.
“The fans came out in their droves for the World Cup, and the diversity, the colours, the vibrancy of the audience has been absolutely brilliant,” he said.
“The diversity of our team is reflective of how our country is, and we can be very proud of them.
“We have a plan in place called ‘inspiring generations’ and it’s all about getting kids playing more in school, getting the women’s and girl’s game transformed and engaging with the South Asian community,
“I think The Hundred is a brilliant opportunity. It’s all about growing the game, making it more straight forward to understand and making it more inclusive.
“It’s about bringing people in who, for whatever reason, don’t feel part of it.”