Crisp new Hundred has a 'build it and they will come' flavour

Andre Russell was chosen at No. 2 in the Hundred draft Getty Images

"Build it and they will come." So goes the Field of Dreams mentality that seems to be underpinning the ECB's bold gamble with the Hundred, which still sounds like a dystopian futurescape survivalist gameshow - and to those tweeting with the #OpposeTheHundred hashtag on Sunday evening, that is exactly what this thin-edge-of-the-wedge exercise in marginalising the county game is.

Nevertheless, the scaffolding is in place and an army of eager hands are scurrying about their business - nowhere more obviously than at Sky's studios in west London, where a bespoke set had been constructed for the televisual extravaganza that was the Hundred draft. A black runway stencilled with neon runes and flanked by eight brightly lit plinths at which the decision-makers sat hunched over their touchscreens, picking and choosing their way through seven increasingly slick rounds of squad building.

This was all an event in itself, some nine months ahead of cricket's newest format being launched in the English summer of 2020. Sky threw open the doors - after a certain amount of security vetting - to the great and the not-so-good of the UK cricket media, as well as the "influencers" whom it is hoped will bring access to a brand-new fan base. Nothing says "we are taking this seriously" like asking in advance for journalists' dietary requirements (which are normally limited to "anything we can scoff").

Speaking of scoff, there were the obligatory offerings from the competition's snack-giant sponsor; appropriate, given the whole concept of the Hundred is product placement on a grand scale.

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Does the public want the product? That question won't have an answer for a while yet, but we are now firmly on the route march to 100-ball cricket. Ever since the surprise/botched - delete according to prejudice - announcement in April 2018 of the ECB's wheeze to grow the game, momentum has been slowly gathering. From promoted content lurking in social media feeds to being discussed on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour, as it was last week, the Hundred is coalescing before our eyes.

"May you live in interesting times," as the apocryphal Chinese curse has it. And there was undoubtedly plenty of interest in what amounted to a path-breaking moment - the first player draft ever to be held in UK sport. It may not have had the decadence of the IPL auction (the top price bracket for a contract was a mere £125,000) or the sheer grandiosity of the NFL draft, which Sky had sent presenter Ian Ward to observe in order to pick up tips, but it had a certain heft and zing of its own as the eight newly minted teams came together.

Not that there weren't some issues during the somewhat frenetic opening rounds. Trent Rockets, who had drawn the right to first pick, took around 15 of the allotted 100 seconds to confirm their preference for Rashid Khan - and then they were off, a domino effect of causality as each team's management, usually including an analyst or data guru, scanned the ever-diminishing list of options and those on the Sky sofas struggled to come up with incisive commentary - mostly consisting of "So who should these guys pick?" "Would you have picked him?" and "That's a good pick" on sugar-buzzed repeat.

The fact that some of the slots - each team had two picks at seven different price bands, from £125,000 down to £30,000 - had already been filled by the 'local icons', selected behind closed doors earlier this month, contributed to the confusion. As the camera skipped quickly from Manchester Originals to London Spirit to Birmingham Phoenix, then suddenly back to Simon Katich's Originals (because Spirit and Phoenix had previously signed up Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali), it became a struggle to keep up.

It was at this point the Manchester hierarchy slipped in what was probably the most astonishing selection of the night, taking Lancashire captain (and Kolpak qualified "local") Dane Vilas for £125,000 despite his not having set a reserve price. But no time to discuss that because Steve Smith! Mujeeb Ur Rahman! David Warner! D'Arcy Short! On we go!

To be fair, after two or three rounds of flustered scribbling on the helpfully provided draft grid, things began to settle down into an understandable rhythm, with interviews and analysis - rather than hypothetical musing - interspersing the "action" in the main studio. Though how many of the casual audience, who could also follow online via the BBC, the competition's other broadcast partner, will have stuck with it for the long haul remains unknown.

By the end of the process, when Luke Wright became the 96th player to be given a Hundred handshake, you could argue that things had gone pretty well. There were no technical glitches or hold-ups, the teams professed to being happy with their selections (and it was hard to argue with the concentration of talent in each list), and all of the players present were on message - albeit Sky had only invited in those certain of deals. Beyond a certain amount of carping at the number of Kolpaks winning "domestic" spots or the lack of any Leicestershire player being picked at all, the most difficult moments came for the camera operators trying to avoid catching Sam Billings or Jofra Archer eating their dinner while filming segments in the canteen.

There was even room for an announcement of marquee players for the women's competition - though given the ECB has made a big thing of the Hundred putting male and female players on the same pedestal, this was an occasion heavily orientated towards the men's game (and that is without touching on the issue of pay).

Perhaps most importantly, this felt like a recognisably "cricket" happening - bubbling along with enthusiastic discussion about squad balance and tactical options. And who would begrudge the likes of Max Waller or Benny Howell the opportunity to become household names? For a few brief hours it was easy to forget about the whole 100-balls lark, as if this, finally, were the star-studded launch of England's first T20 franchise league. Now there's an idea.

After the World Cup and Ashes summer just gone - reminders of which were regularly on show - it remains a nagging doubt that a fourth format will merely serve to complicate matters further. And on a day that began with emotional sporting scenes in Japan, as rugby union made great global strides with its own expansionist tournament, while in the UAE the T20 World Cup Qualifier continued to offer cricket a path for growth, it seemed instructive that the ECB is spending millions of pounds simply to drum up interest in its own territory.

But here we are, on the road to the promised land - or, at least, the highly leveraged land. In these divided times, whether the Hundred turns out to be a field of dreams or a waking nightmare may simply depend on your point of view.