Junior cricket format changes

Junior cricket across Australia is undergoing a transformation - Photo Brook Mitchell
Junior cricket across Australia is undergoing a transformation - Photo Brook Mitchell

A nationwide revolution in cricket is underway this summer as almost 65 per cent of Australian associations adopt a new junior format.

Radical rule changes for children are being introduced in a bid to increase participation and player retention, including in Dorrigo, Bellingen, Nambucca and Coffs Harbour.

Youngsters will pursue their craft under modified rules as part of a staged roll out of the junior format concept, playing on shorter pitches with smaller equipment and alongside fewer teammates.

However, eager juniors across the district are still waiting to play their first game in the 2017/18 season as the first two rounds were washed out.

President of the Dorrigo Cricket Club and coach of the under 12s team Justin Gilbert said the club was excited to be implementing the new changes.

“The new rules should allow all kids no matter their ability to be more involved in the game, with less down time and more chance for the kids to participate,” Justin said.

“We are yet to see how they work as we have missed the first two games due to weather,” Nambucca Bellingen Junior Cricket Association secretary Tanya Upsall said. “They sound a good option and will make cricket more exciting for the kids.”

Last season's pilot program, trialled across 15 associations, produced significant increases in boundaries struck, runs scored and wickets taken, and perhaps most crucially a reduction in the number of wides and no balls bowled.

Ex-Australian captain Greg Chappell describes it as a critical direction junior cricket needs to take.

"There are an inordinate number of kids that want to play our game and a lot of them we've scared off over the years because we've made the game too difficult," Chappell said.

"We haven't made it enough fun, we haven't developed their passion early by giving them a memorable experience.

"The different formats are about compressing the game, increasing the number of moments that they're involved in the game, handling the ball, bowling the ball, hitting the ball because that's how you learn.

"It's not about developing a technique, it's about developing a love, developing a passion and the desire to want to get out there and keep trying to get better at it."

Greg Chappell knows first-hand just how many youngsters walk away from the sport. His son Jon, a talented cricketer in his own right, gave up the sport in favour of baseball in the 1990s.