By DANIEL LANE
JUNIORS in the Sunraysia Cricket Association should feel more comfortable bowling – and hitting sixes – this summer, thanks to some significant changes to the game that cater for the physical capabilities of children.
Australian cricket’s junior formats have been tailored for children aged between 10 and 13 after last summer’s nationwide pilot – which included shortening the length of the pitch, the boundaries and reducing the number of fielders – was hailed a success by the 171 clubs that trialled it.
The changes were introduced by Australian cricket (the collaboration of Cricket Australia, its States and Territories) to address the unrealistic expectations that were placed on kids to play under adult regulations – including bowling on full-sized pitches and trying to hit fours or sixes past massive boundaries.
Analysts who studied the results during the 2016/17 pilot noted vast improvements due to the changes. They observed less no balls and wides bowled; more wickets; more fours and sixes and a huge improvement in shot placement.
When junior cricket associations around Australia were presented with the outcomes they agreed to roll out the new formats over the next three years. Sunraysia is one of many associations across Australia that will adopt the new rules this summer.
Age groupings for the SCA, however, are still to be confirmed.
Cameron French, the chief executive of Cricket ACT and who is overseeing the roll out of the new junior formats for Cricket Australia, said the changes, which ensure every child bats and bowls, would allow for opportunities to develop a greater skill set.
“Developed, tested and trialled over the past three seasons, the formats have been created so there are more balls in play,” Mr French said.
“Wides are no longer the top-scorer in junior cricket, and there is more action, more runs, more wickets and a lot more fun.
“Another advantage is the formats have significantly reduced a game to two to three hours, which makes the sport even more appealing for families in a time-poor society.”
The formats have been designed for 10 to 13-year-olds, and one of the first changes is the name for the age groups: Under 11s are now known as Stage One; Under 13s are Stage Two.
Stage One teams field seven players; play on a 16-metre pitch to cut down on wides and no balls; defend a shorter 40 metre boundary and each player is given a bat and bowl.
Those in Stage Two will play in teams of nine; use an 18-metre pitch and defend a shorter 45-metre boundary. Each player is guaranteed a bat and bowl.
One advocate for the change is Dr Ian Renshaw, whose 21-year-old son Matthew has impressed since making his debut as an opener in Australia’s Test team last summer.
Dr Renshaw, a senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, played a role in helping to transform junior cricket into a more action-packed sport.
He worked in conjunction with Professor Damian Farrow from Victoria University during the initial research phase of last summer’s pilot, and recalled memories of how his son sometimes struggled in the 11-player, adult-like format.
“The little spin bowler can’t easily reach the other end of the adult-sized (20.1-metre) pitch,” he said. “I remember Matthew having to bowl into a headwind in New Zealand when he was a 10-year-old who bowled leg-spin … he couldn’t reach the other end.
“However, put him on a 16-metre pitch and he was fine; he could spin it, turn it and have the right shape on the ball.”
Visit http://community.cricket.com.au/clubs/junior-formats for more information on the changes. Log on to www.playcricket.com.au to find a cricket team for your child.
*Daniel Lane is a Cricket Australia contractor