New Zealand Cricket have started an initiative aimed at helping keep up playing numbers.

From next season, there will be significant changes to cricket throughout the country for junior age groups up to around 13 which, NZC hope, will have a positive outcome for the sport. In some parts of the country, new rules are already in place; starting next summer they will become mandatory.

Among the more significant points are that pitches will be shortened, depending on age, down as low as 14 metres from the traditional 20m; teams may be trimmed to eight or nine players; boundaries will be made shorter; and, in time, the balls may become lighter.

NZC have openly borrowed from Cricket Australia, who have been going through a similar review of how to boost the game's playing numbers at school age across the Tasman.


"It's come from looking at our junior game and trying to make it more relevant to today's society," NZC general manager community cricket Adrian Dale said.

"We do have a perception that cricket can be long, a bit slow, a bit boring, and we're hearing from clubs and districts that one of the hardest things they have to do is keep their junior players."

Dale, who played more than 250 first-class games for Glamorgan, said the expectation for young players is that they will turn up to a game on a Saturday morning and know they will have plenty of involvement. If it doesn't happen, if boredom takes over, the danger of losing players for good increases.

"Cricket Australia have been fantastic to us," he said. "They've shared three years' worth of research to get them to a point where they've developed very similar lines. I wouldn't say we've copied and pasted what they've done; but we've certainly copied and pasted the philosophy."

It's not rocket science.

"Playing on full length pitches, 11-a-side is just not as good an experience as it could be so we have tried to make it feel like what the youngsters see on TV."

The boundaries coming in mean more chances to hit a boundary; shortened pitches mean bowlers are more easily able to bowl with a trajectory they see on television, as opposed to delivering donkey drops or balls bobbling down the pitch; and fewer players means more gaps in the field. More running in the outfield equals more engagement.

Underpinning the changes is the essential ambition of making it more fun.

"There is a hell of a lot more fielding, backing up, running, a much more dynamic experience," Dale said.

"We don't see games where you stick a ring of nine around the batsman who is not strong enough to hit past them. It's just dot ball after dot ball, often with two or three wides an over because the pitch is too long for the kids."

NZC are convinced this is the right approach, even though some feedback from parents of young players who are at more advanced stages of their development has queried the plans.

"I think it's groundbreaking for junior cricket and we will reap benefits in years to come," Dale said. "It would be a really significant thing for cricket in New Zealand."

Changing the rules

• Shortening pitches to 14, 16 and 18m depending on the age category, down from the standard 20m.
• Reduce team numbers to eight or nine players, thereby opening more scoring opportunities and have more involvement for the fielders.
• Smaller boundaries to enable more boundary hitting opportunities.
• It is already in use in parts of New Zealand but the plan is that for children aged 10-13 years, it will become mandatory nationwide next summer.