A new pre-season tournament aimed at getting local juniors excited about cricket is being held in Rotorua this weekend.
John Paul College, with the support of the Bay of Plenty Cricket Association and Events and Venues Rotorua, has created the Rotorua Little League Cricket T20 tournament at the Rotorua International Stadium.
The tournament comprises four teams of Year 7 and 8 players from the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupo, who will vie for early season honours during two days of T20 action.
It will include two innovations which are new to junior cricketers in the region; early evening games will be played under lights and games will be played on portable artificial wickets provided by Flicx Pitch New Zealand.
John Paul College cricket co-ordinator and Rotorua Little League spokesman Mark Chapman said it was rare for children to have the opportunity to play cricket under lights, let alone in a stadium predominantly used for representative rugby.
There will also be an MC and each player will be able to choose a song to be played over the loudspeaker when they walk out to bat.
"I've played for a good 30 years and I think I can count on one hand the times I've played under lights, so it's a chance to jazz it up for them. It's about giving the kids life experiences, if they look back on their cricket, they might not be a Black Cap but they might say 'that tournament we played under lights was so cool'.
"It's a really good way to start the season, you always get that transition from winter to summer sports. Down the line, if this concept works, it's something we might like to look at growing.
"We're keeping it quite small at the moment, being the first time, but it is really exciting. We're just trying to look at new ideas and new ways to grow our game.
"Cricket is reinventing itself and I think that's what we have to do - make it fun, make it shorter and make it family friendly. We're lucky we can do that at the stadium," Chapman said.
The four teams have been given names aimed at complementing the expected non-stop action. There are the Wizards from Whakatane, the Rebels from Taupo and the John Paul College teams Dragons and Thunder.
Chapman said the idea for the tournament came about when the organisation was approached about a trial of a new artificial wicket from Flicx Pitch.
"We thought how best we might get some coverage for the product coupled with what is traditionally a difficult period to secure pitches for junior pre-season games.
"The pitch can just be rolled out and played on anywhere - if it plays well we will definitely be looking at getting one," Chapman said.
Accompanying the action on the field will be a Festival Family Fun Day. There will be raffles, a car wash, refreshments and food on offer and entrance is by gold coin.
The first game on Saturday starts at 11am and Sunday's games start at 10am.