The Hundred Draft: Five things to look out for

Patrick Noone looks ahead to Sunday’s draft and picks out the key factors that will determine how the eight teams look to build their squads.

The importance of Kolpaks

With only three overseas players per side allowed, the presence of a number of Kolpak players could make for tempting selections for teams looking to preserve their overseas picks. Kolpak players are classed as domestic players, despite many of them having substantial international experience. This fact makes players such as Wayne Parnell, Ravi Rampaul and Hardus Viljoen more appealing picks than they otherwise would be if they were in the draft as overseas players.

The potential knock-on effect, should teams choose to target Kolpaks ahead of overseas players perceived to be over-valued, is that several big name players will likely go unsold. The overseas players with a reserve price of £75k would likely be the most vulnerable, meaning players as high profile as Dale Steyn and Babar Azam could well find themselves unsold.

Distribution of overseas picks

Different teams will adopt different strategies, with one aspect to look for being how each coach manages their overseas picks. All of the available players with a reserve price of £125k are overseas, so the chances are that at least the first two rounds will be dominated by overseas picks. But after that is where things could get interesting.

There are of course plenty of top quality overseas options in the £100k bracket that teams will be tempted to go for, but doing so would likely mean they will have used up their overseas picks at the earliest opportunity, leaving only domestic players to pick for the remaining rounds. The alternative is to focus on under-valued domestic talent in the middle rounds and hope to pick up a lower-priced overseas player later on, such as Luke Ronchi (£40k reserve) or Imad Wasim (£50k reserve). 

Oval Invincibles, London Spirit and Birmingham Phoenix are in an interesting position with regard to this, given that they already have one of their two £125k picks selected from the pre-draft. This means that, should they target domestic talent in the £100k bracket, they would have two overseas spots to fill lower down the list. As the draft develops, the way teams decide to allocate their overseas slots will provide a good indication of the kind of identity the coaches want to build in their side.

Coaches’ preferences

Though the Hundred might be a new competition, and the very concept of player drafts an unfamiliar one in English sport, many of the key figures involved on Sunday will be veterans of similar processes in other parts of the world. Each of the eight coaches have worked with T20 franchises in various leagues around the world and bring with them a wealth of connections, past relationships and shared knowledge with several players in the draft.

Those links could provide some clues as to who will end up where. For instance, Birmingham Phoenix coach Andrew McDonald has enjoyed great success at Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League with Aaron Finch as his captain, so it would not be a surprise to see him resume that relationship at Edgbaston. Similarly, Southern Brave’s Mahela Jayawardene has coached and worked with Lasith Malinga at Mumbai Indians in the IPL, having obviously played together for Sri Lanka, so could target him as a seam bowling option.

Of course, coaches are not wedded to their former players, but each has their own style and will know the best players available to fit that style, based on previous tournaments. Identifying players to perform leadership roles will be as important to the coaches as batting or bowling, so the chances of them looking to players they know they can rely on are high.

Impact of England Test players’ availability

Each team is, at face value, starting from an equal position in terms of players chosen in the pre-draft, with one England red ball player assigned to each team. However, the likely availability of those players when the tournament comes around makes for some interesting nuances with regard to how teams will look to pick their remaining players.

For instance, Ben Stokes is almost certain to be involved in England’s Test series against Pakistan, making Northern Superchargers’ decision to pick him over Jonny Bairstow a poor one. Bairstow has just been left out of England’s Test squad for the New Zealand tour and, should his absence continue into the home summer, Welsh Fire would have one of the best short form batsmen in the world available for the majority of the competition so their need to draft top order batsmen would be lessened, meaning they can focus on other areas of the squad.

Conversely, if Bairstow does find his way back into the England fold, it could well be at the expense of Jos Buttler, who was picked up by Manchester Originals in the pre-draft and whose availability could potentially change a decent side into a very good one. Therefore, should the Originals look to secure a gun top order batsman for a high price early in the draft, or gamble on Buttler being available and focus on the middle order?

These are the kind of factors that coaches and management teams will be weighing up when they consider who to target in the draft.

Effect of the Future Tours Programme

It’s not just England players who will be affected by scheduled internationals around the same time as the Hundred takes place. West Indies host both New Zealand and South Africa across three different formats in late July and early August, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh play a Test series at the same time while Pakistan’s Test players will obviously be busy facing England.

The ramifications of the proposed international calendar are huge for the Hundred. For example, a player like Kane Williamson is an attractive pick, even at £100k, given that he has captaincy experience and bat anywhere in the top three playing a variety of roles. But given that he will be busy with New Zealand for a sizeable chunk of the competition, teams might reason that resources could be better allocated elsewhere, or they might decide that his leadership is an asset worth paying for, even for a truncated period of time.

Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.

@patnoonecricket

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