New Zealand Cricket deserve a "player of the day" trophy for their efforts to adjust the annual scheduling and juggle the three formats of the game for the coming season.

Features include: reducing the gap between the two segments of first-class matches from 76 to 34 days, bringing the Twenty20 game to a Friday night audience and dovetailing the formats so form players will be ready to face England. They visit for limited-overs matches in February and test matches in March.

England's visit is the solitary home series for New Zealand, who will be playing in Sri Lanka and South Africa during the early part of the summer. That highlights an unavoidable downside to the schedule.

The country's best players will now be unavailable for their provinces for most of the summer. The chequebook may well have to come out to lure overseas players - and subsequently paying fans - to the HRV Cup.


NZC appears to have taken heed of England's model which, until recently had them as the best test team in the world. They remain the defending T20 world champions. The English formats are mixed and players switch between them regularly.

Ten rounds of Plunket Shield action remain but at least the move is a proactive step to improve the country's test ranking of eighth.

Having the second segment of matches in late January-February, rather than late February-March, means provincial players in form can contest spots in the test team to play England (if there are injury or form problems with the incumbents in South Africa).

Likewise, the finals of the HRV Cup will lead into the England T20 and ODI series. Selection ambitions can also be channelled towards making the tour to England in May and the Champions Trophy tournament in June.

NZC have also seized on what is surely a palatable Friday night slot for punters attending games after work or watching them with fish and chips and a few beverages at home.

The governing body has tried to get the best mix of the practical and the commercial. The major associations' greatest earning potential comes in the holiday period; hence the HRV Cup is scheduled from December 23 to January 20. That will enable the casual cricket fan with limited leisure hours to come to games.

It is also prime time for family attendances.

The five-week window for the 50-over Ford Trophy gets the least attention but something has to give and, with it not being a World Cup year, it rates low as a domestic priority.

It will be played over eight rounds from February 26 to March 30.