Cricket: THE Darling Downs opening weekend of cricket has marked the arrival of Australian cricket's new junior formats, allowing children aged 9-12 to play on grounds with shorter pitches, smaller boundaries and fewer fielders.
The new Stage One and Stage Two junior formats are specially tailored for children's physical capabilities, so they're no longer expected to bowl on adult-sized fields or defend the same-sized boundaries as senior cricketers. They're also using age-appropriate equipment, including smaller cricket balls they can grip properly.
Queensland Cricket's regional development manager for Metropolitan South West and Darling Downs, John Butterworth, described the weekend's matches he watched in Goondiwindi as "amazing”.
"Everyone was really happy with the formats,” he said.
"The bowling in the Stage One game was amazing. There were less wides - which we knew was always going to happen - and the trajectory of the ball was better, meaning it looked more like a senior cricket game.
"The president of the Goondiwindi Junior Cricket Association, Andrew Woods, was one of many people who felt very positive about what they saw.”
The new formats were implemented after analysts, who studied the results during the 2016/17 nationwide pilot, noted vast improvements due to the changes. They observed fewer no balls and wides were bowled, more wickets were taken, more fours and sixes were struck, and there was a vast improvement in shot placement.
Toowoomba, Goondiwindi, Chinchilla and St George were among the associations around the nation that agreed to adopt the new rules, and Butterworth said the feedback he received during the Darling Downs pre-season trials suggested the formats would be successful.
"Julie Rice, one of the volunteers from the Pittsworth Cricket Club, umpired a Stage One match and she noticed an immediate difference,” Butterworth said.
"Her enthusiasm was supported by Brandon Walker (from the Northern Brothers Diggers). He scored a Stage 2 match and was impressed that it resembled a senior cricket game.”
Butterworth said the junior formats will help to change the mindset of any adult who remembers cricket as a long, slow day because the changes ensure the action is fast and
"My advice is for people to have a look because they'll see a proper game, a proper contest,” he said.
"It's not going to be a case of showing up, throwing a couple of balls and hoping for the best, because they're going to see a competitive game.”
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