Canterbury's parks and ovals are set for a cricketing revolution this summer.
In a bid to keep children in the sport and win the support of parents taking them to games, Canterbury Cricket have rejigged their junior programme.
The transformation will come on grounds with shorter pitches, smaller boundaries and teams with less fielders, to enable what the Major Association described in a statement as "a faster-paced game". The changes aim to have "more balls in play, more runs scored and increased fielder activity".
Cricket is renowned for its "character-building" traits. This can perhaps best be summed up if a player gets out for a first-ball duck. They have to resist the urge to sulk, support their teammates, and stew on the inside until the following week's opportunity.
The Canterbury solution won't cure the golden duck blues but it might mitigate the risk of losing frustrated players and create a game in which more people want to be involved. The hope is it will sustain the boost in junior numbers since the co-hosting of the 2015 World Cup.
Children entering the game in Year 1 of their schooling will play on 12m pitches. The length increases by 2m every two years until they play on the full length 20.12m pitch from Year 9. Boundary sizes will increase from a maximum of 30m to 50m over the same time frame.
Team numbers will also change to reduce the duration of games and create more space for batsmen to exploit.
At Year 1, players will operate as pairs learning the skills of the game before entering seven-person teams at Year 5, nine-person teams at Year 7 and a full XI at Year 9.
A modified ball at development level gradually morphs into the 156g hard ball when players reach secondary school.
Busy parents are also given consideration by the match timeframes. They will range from 75 minutes for beginners (12 overs per side, bowled from one end) to four-and-a-half hours (45 overs per side, bowled in five over blocks per end). Bowling in blocks will save time by reducing the need for players to swap fielding positions between overs.
The changes are based on research by Cricket Australia and are endorsed by New Zealand Cricket. The governing body is expected to implement the changes by the 2018-19 season to ensure consistency nationwide.
Feedback from the pilot programmes in Australia showed the shorter pitch resulted in fewer wides and no balls, and match scorecards showed more balls were in the strike zone for batsmen.
The hope is it will also reduce the potential for injury through appropriate transitioning up the ranks