How do you build a cricket team from scratch? One that has no history, no identity and no players.
Manchester Originals men’s head coach Simon Katich has had to do just that – assemble a squad of 15 players from around the globe, with the not-so-simple aim of winning the world’s first 100-ball cricket competition.
How many batsmen do you need? What about bowlers? Pace or spin? What is your team ethos? Who is your leader?
All of those questions and more were swirling round Katich’s head when he put the finishing touches to his Originals squad in Monday’s final draft for the men’s competition.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Katich shares what he looked for when assembling his squad.
‘An opportunity to start afresh’
When The Hundred’s launch was delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams were given the choice of retaining the players they signed in the 2019 draft or start again in a second draft, which was held behind closed doors on Monday.
While some of the eight franchises retained the majority of the cricketers they originally signed in the tournament’s first draft in 2019, Manchester Originals – with 10 spaces – had the most spots for new players heading into the latest men’s draft.
“We had retained some guys straight away and then had other guys who wanted more money, which is a part of negotiations and I certainly respect,” Katich said.
Decisions were not just purely cricketing either, with some clouded by either the pandemic, and the resulting change in player availability, or Britain’s exit from the European Union.
South Africa’s Dane Vilas, who was one of the Original’s first-round picks at the top price of £125,000 in 2019, was not retained as he was no longer considered a ‘local’ player after having his Kolpak status removed following Brexit.
But Katich “did his homework” as he set out to add a combination of youth, experience, international and domestic talent to his squad.
With less international cricket played this summer than what was originally planned in 2020, and with Originals having their full allocation of three overseas players to still pick from, Katich was able to sign West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran, Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan and South Africa seamer Kagiso Rabada.
“We got pretty much every player we wanted,” Katich said.
The delayed tournament also allowed him to pick up English players “who had enhanced their skills” over the past year and a half, such as Lancashire fast bowler Richard Gleeson and Somerset batsman Tom Lammonby.
‘Batting with freedom’
Katich is no stranger to a new competition with a new set of rules.
In 2003, he was on the winning Hampshire side against Sussex in one of the first Twenty20 matches ever played.
The 45-year-old has gone on to coach T20 franchises across the world, experience which he says helped him identify the type of squad to put together for The Hundred.
“It’s all about getting the right balance,” he said. “For example, we identified that because a lot of our batsmen were right-handed we wanted to pick up a young left-handed batsman in Tom Lammonby.”
Katich also looked at the recent T10 league in Abu Dhabi – a 10 overs per side format – and sought all-rounder Jamie Overton as a lower-order, big-hitting batsman.
“We knew we needed some power players at the back end of an innings,” he said.
“This generation is so good at playing with freedom. It doesn’t mean it absolves you from responsibility but it frees the mind to say ‘OK, I think I can hit this bloke for six over cover first ball’ and then back yourself to execute it.”
‘Bowlers are critical to your success’
While batsmen who can hit big and score quick will be imperative, Katich wanted to add depth to his pace attack and signed experienced seamers Steven Finn and Harry Gurney.
“In a 100-ball tournament, bowlers are critical to your success – especially when it comes to decision making when guys start pinging the ball everywhere,” Katich said.
He also acknowledges the importance of a strong fielding unit and Originals fans could be treated to some astonishing catches like this one from Pooran in last season’s IPL.
“In this format you have to try and find the balance with the bowling line-up and fielding unit too,” said Katich.
“Every ball counts in these shorter formats. So to save one or two runs in the field, all the bowlers being as mobile as possible, that plays a big part in trying to be successful to win titles.”
Leaders and competitive cricketers
Katich, who coaches India star and captain Virat Kohli for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, believes a group of leaders are essential in assembling a sports team from scratch.
“You definitely look for a leader as early as possible so you’re not playing Russian Roulette in the draft and that’s one of the reasons we picked up Dane last year because he was skilful but also Lancashire captain,” he said.
England star Jos Buttler, who was retained after the first draft, will captain the Originals but is expected to miss parts of the tournament due to international commitments, prompting Katich to sign other players with leadership experience and qualities.
“I have been discussing strategy with Jos. He wants to get leadership experience and he’ll be in charge,” Katich said.
“But the beauty is that we have a lot of guys who can step in and play a role when Jos isn’t there. Pooran is a young player but he’s played a lot of tournaments in the world, Colin Ackermann has experience, and Steven Finn has captained Middlesex.”
Katich, who played 56 Tests, 45 one-day-internationals and three T20s for Australia, looks for more than just technical ability and leaders; he is looking for winners and players with a competitive edge.
“When you look back on your career, your proudest achievements are lifting trophies with your team-mates and that’s what I want to try and instil with this group,” he said.
“If you take Harry Gurney, I saw him do a great job in the Australian Big Bash for the Melbourne Renegades a couple of years ago when they won it, he won the Caribbean Premier League in 2019 and he’s won with Nottinghamshire too.
“Pooran has also been in winning teams, as has Jos, obviously.
“I look for that character and competitiveness in players, those who love to win because ultimately that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re trying to entertain but we’re also looking to win titles.”