England all-rounder Ben Stokes says he wants to "inspire the next generation" of young boys and girls to play cricket as he looks ahead to the launch of The Hundred competition this summer.
The action-packed, new 100-ball format will make history in its opening fixture as it begins with a women's match, with Oval Invincibles hosting Manchester Originals at The Kia Oval on Wednesday, July 21.
The Hundred features eight brand new teams based in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton and two in London.
Stokes, who is part of the Northern Superchargers squad in Leeds, told Sky Sports: "The women starting off the competition is a great thing for the game.
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"It's not only what the men have achieved in reaching a new audience, but what the women have managed to achieve over the last five to six years has been amazing as well.
"Our performances on the pitch are what we get analysed on, but what resonates through both the men's and the women's game is we want to inspire the next generation of cricketers coming through - young boys and girls up and down the country, and all around the world for that matter."
'Got tingles with crowd return'
Stokes - who is currently in India with the England Test squad preparing for Wednesday's third Test - is also hopeful of the return of fans for the tournament following on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement this week which detailed the proposed roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Stokes and England played in front of a socially-distanced crowd of roughly 15,000 fans in their second Test defeat in Chennai.
"I completely forgot how loud it was in India; it's deafening," Stokes said, "Especially when 100 per cent of them are chanting Virat [Kohli], Rohit [Sharma] or [Ravi] Ashwin.
"It proved to me how much we missed it having crowds in. We got tingles down the spine walking out on the field for the first time.
"Looking forward to our English summer, hopefully to have crowds back is just as exciting as the tournament itself starting."
As for Stokes' place in the Superchargers side, he said that is not yet sure where he will feature in a stacked batting order containing the likes of Australia's Aaron Finch and Chris Lynn.
"Not sure [about opening] yet," he added. "But with the batting line-up we've got, it might be difficult to get to the top of the order.
"I'm just happy to be a part of it and whatever role I play takes a backward seat to the excitement of playing in the first year of the competition."
Stokes was one of a number of cricket stars to speak to Sky Sports as part of a Hundred Takeover on Tuesday as the final men's Draft picks and new signings for all eight women's sides were announced.
Jason Roy, Oval Invincibles
Jason Roy, who will be based on his home ground as part of the Oval Invincibles squad, feels batters may need to brush up on their awareness of strategy in the hundred-ball format.
The rules of the tournament could allow a particular bowler to send down 15 consecutive deliveries - posing a major headache to batters with specific weaknesses.
Roy told The Cricket Show: "That's the fun thing about this whole tournament - tactically you can really get involved. The match-ups with bowlers and batters that come up are going to be hugely exciting.
"I've started doing that over the last two or three years - before that, maybe I was just a bit naïve thinking 'I'll do my thing and make sure my game's in order and it'll be OK'.
"More recently, I've made sure I understand what kind of bowler teams are looking to attack me with and then become better at facing that type of bowler. Especially being able to bowl 15 balls at a certain batter, that's huge.
"If someone's weak against left-arm spin or a mystery spinner, you bring them on for 15 balls as soon as that batter comes in and that can really dictate where the game sits."
Jos Buttler, Manchester Originals
Manchester Originals had 10 spaces to fill in their men's squad before The Draft, the most of any team. They selected West Indies all-rounder Nicholas Pooran as the first player picked, with South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada joining him.
The Originals also snapped up Pakistan spinner Shadab Khan and domestic stars Jamie Overton, Harry Gurney, Steven Finn and Richard Gleeson in a busy day for the team.
Jos Buttler, part of the Manchester squad, told Sky Sports: "I'm really excited with that squad. Nicholas Pooran, for me, is one of the most exciting players in the world at the moment. There are not many people who can hit sixes as easily as he can.
"And Kagiso Rabada is one of the premier fast bowlers in the world. We've seen him do it in all formats of the game, and that will be no different in The Hundred."
Jonny Bairstow, Welsh Fire
Welsh Fire added West Indies power hitter Kieron Pollard and young Australia fast bowler Jhye Richardson to their overseas contingent, while England-capped seamer Jake Ball was another notable addition.
England, and Fire, batsman Jonny Bairstow said: "It is a strong squad. And signing Jhye Richardson, with that extra pace, only helps.
"Kieron Pollard, we know how destructive he can be, and the short boundaries straight especially at Cardiff will be huge.
I really do feel that it's going to be an exciting competition and hopefully people are able to come and watch - with Boris' announcement, there's the hope of crowds. I really have missed it, to be honest. That's the adrenaline buzz that gets you really going when you're playing sport.
"We're looking forward to it. Hopefully we can win as many games as possible on our home ground, that will be the biggest thing."
Anya Shrubsole, Southern Brave
England Women's World Cup winner Anya Shrubsole will be turning out for Southern Brave in The Hundred and she is excited by the star names she'll be joining up with on the team.
"For it to be so close now is really exciting," Shrubsole said of the tournament. "Seeing all of the announcements from the draft for the men coming through, and few more of the women's players being announced, it all makes it a bit more real.
"We've got girls who can really now put them in the shop window to play for England, and a whole host of incredible overseas stars.
"I think we're [Southern Brave] in a really good position. All of the girls we got hold of last year, we've managed to get again and in someone like Danni [Wyatt] at the top of the order - such an explosive batter - she can win games of cricket by herself.
"We've got a really good balanced side. We've got a lot of girls that played for the Southern Vipers, who won the Rachael Heyhoe Flint last year, so they've built up a really strong relationship and hopefully I can add to that."
Heather Knight, London Spirit
England Women's World Cup-winning captain, Heather Knight, also spoke of her excitement at the women's game launching The Hundred.
"It has been a long time coming, after a very strange year with Covid - but it is now guaranteed it's going to happen this year, which is amazing," Knight said.
"To have that brand new competition, and the razzmatazz and excitement it's going to bring, is going to be really great!
"Having that high standard of domestic cricket below the England side is going to be really key, with our players going up against some of the best players in the world day in, day out.
"It's great that the tournament is going to start with women's cricket front and centre - where it deserves to be. The women's competition being right alongside the men's, that is a really big profile boost for the women's game.
"Young girls and boys seeing men's and women's cricket played on an equal pedestal is a great thing to have as a youngster."