Opposing domestic women's cricket coaches Owen Steverson and Mike Shrimpton are already singing off different songsheets ahead of the opening game of the season tomorrow at Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval.
Shrimpton, who will guide the Central Districts Hind, has been a vocal critic of the women's domestic schedule mapped out for the season that puts a heavy accent on Twenty20 and one-day games at the expense of first-class cricket, which has disappeared entirely from the calendar, presumably in a bid to arrest a decline in spectator and player numbers.
But new Northern Spirit coach Owen Steverson is a convert, saying Twenty20 was the way the game was heading and would also help inject new players into the game. Games this season would be played in blocks of three, with Spirit and Hinds clashing tomorrow at the Bay Oval in Twenty20 and then at Hamilton's Seddon Park on Saturday and Sunday in a one-dayer and Twenty20.
Shrimpton, the only national coach to guide the New Zealand women's representative team to a World Cup title in 2000, has joined a chorus of dismay at New Zealand Cricket's persistence with T20 matches to promote the sport.
"(CD selector Scott Briasco) and I feel the format is not ideal in developing players," Shrimpton said of the new domestic structure.
Last summer ex-international and current Auckland Hearts coach Maia Lewis was keen to back the idea of playing two T20 matches on one day to facilitate the return of two 50-over games each round if NZ Cricket warmed up the concept.
They didn't. Steverson, who has taken over from long-time ND women's coach Cliff Dickeson, said the love affair with Twenty20 was part of an international trend.
"Our season is basically five blocks of three matches against the other associations, and although it might seem it's heavily weighted towards Twenty20 the shorter form of the game is what's driving women's cricket right now. I think it's quite exciting. There's some great opportunities in the women's game right now, with the White Ferns playing in a T20 World Cup next year in Sri Lanka alongside the men's tournament, and hopefully our players will step up and aspire to be part of it."
Northern Spirit played a warm-up game at the Bay Oval yesterday against Bay of Plenty's junior secondary schools boys' team. Steverson has inherited a team boasting just a solitary win from 14 games last season, with its only White Fern, Nicole Brown, retiring from international duties in August after nine years in which the 27-year-old played two tests, 108 one-day internationals and 34 Twenty20s.
Steverson had pushed the bulk of the squad hard and Spirit would also rely on New South Wales bat Hannah Trollip, who arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday having won the Sydney Association player of the year for the second consecutive season. Shrimpton has included two former Auckland representative players, Sandee Hui and Kerry Tomlinson, in his squad, as well as Dutch international Esther Lanser and New Zealand's international women's player of the year Sara McGlashan.
Northern Spirit: Morna Neilsen (capt), Heidi Arndt, Natalie Dodd, Caitlin Dodunski, Natalie Edwards, Felicity Leydon-Davis, (Hamilton), Nicola Browne, Brooke Kirkbride, Rhiana Vincent (Waikato Valley), Jordy Hardacre (Poverty Bay), Katie Johnson (Counties Manuaku), Anna Peterson (Bay of Plenty), Hannah Trollip (overseas player).
Central Districts Hinds: Rachel Priest (capt), Kate Broadmore, Abby Burrows, Briar Cloake, Michele Frey, Sandee Hui, Esther Lanser, Sara McGlashan, Hester Nesbitt, Eimear Richardson, Hannah Rowe, Maneka Singh, Kerry Tomlinson.
Tomorrow: Action Cricket Twenty20 (4pm), Bay Oval