Cricket: TV focus for T20 creates uneven playing field

By David Leggat

The domestic T20 season begins with a whisper in Hamilton tonight. Photo / Thinkstock
The domestic T20 season begins with a whisper in Hamilton tonight. Photo / Thinkstock

The domestic T20 season begins with a whisper in Hamilton tonight. That's no disrespect to either Northern Districts or visitors Otago.

It's just that the scheduling of the HRV Cup is such that there won't be anything resembling an even playing field as New Zealand Cricket, in their desire to nail down the Friday night Sky TV slot, have ended up with a mishmash which could leave some teams with a distinct advantage.

Consider that the days of five home and five away games have gone for a song. This season, ND have seven games at either Seddon Park or Mt Maunganui's Blake Park, and only three away.

Central Districts have six home fixtures, Wellington and Auckland five apiece, Otago host four matches and Canterbury just three.

Then there's the scheduling. After tonight, Otago don't play another T20 game until December 14. Auckland kick off away to Wellington in a fortnight, then twiddle their 20-over thumbs until December 21.

ND will have played four games before Auckland play their second.

However, the coaches at the two ends of the country have a philosophical attitude. "It's not ideal, we all know that," Otago coach Vaughan Johnson said.

"But if your focus is on it not being ideal then you're not focusing on the reasons why we're playing. There's no use really delving into it too much; we've just got to get on with what's in front of us."

Auckland coach Paul Strang, chasing a third straight T20 crown, also takes an "it is what it is" approach.

"We'll all have feedback on it and if it's found not to be unduly detrimental to any team I think we'll continue with it," Strang said.

"Ultimately it's about getting bums on seats and becoming a good product in the eyes of public. There'll be teams playing games at various stages, and some will have momentum, some won't," Strang said.

"We're playing the majority of games at the back end of the competition so we'll be in the position of being down the table [early on]. How we manage that will be critical."

Auckland and Otago are in a similar situation, playing their last five round robin games in a tight window from January 4 to 15. They host the last two games before the playoffs, which may well decide the finalists.

ND v OTAGO

* Seddon Park, 7.30pm
* Live, SS 1.

- NZ Herald

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