The Black Caps will take a full-strength squad to Australia for the three-Test series after Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme passed fitness tests.
If there has ever been a summer to play cricket, rather than watch it in Australia, then this is it. This summer, The Roar’s magnificent band of correspondents have regularly written about the state of play in Australia.
It’s been insightful reading and far more enjoyable than the majority of sessions of play in the Ashes, especially to a one-eyed Australian fan (the other eye has been too full of tears).
The amount of one-sided play has left me with a great respect for British sports fans, who took underperformance for so very long with such commendable resignation.
Now it is impossible to begrudge them their enjoyment from the best string of national successes since Robin Hood was splitting arrows and Sir Francis Drake was rolling backhanders.
One of the points illuminated by Roarers was grade cricket’s lack of strength.
I won’t re-hash the arguments, but suffice to say the lack of veterans (for a number of reasons) is hurting the youngsters’ growth. This also seems to be the case at Sheffield Shield level, as the top players are always missing due to international commitments.
The level below grade cricket in the cities is club cricket.
Suburban clubs that are charged with giving cricket opportunities to those who lack either the skill or in many case the desire to train for the hours that grade cricket requires.
Club cricket offers many grade-tiers, so is suitable for cricketers of all experience and ability levels. However, there are a number of challenges facing club cricket at the moment.
A demise in club cricket’s fortunes probably won’t hurt the sport at the top level, but as it caters for the majority of registered players in the country it has a huge affect on the cricket community.
A major hurdle facing clubs is that councils around the country are trying to maximise their revenue (rightly so, too).
As cricket is generally played over a period of hours that could accommodate 2 or 3 soccer matches, and more registered fee-paying players per afternoon means more funds, there are a lot more fields and ovals that were previously cricket fields in summer being earmarked for say summer soccer or tip-footy competitions.
There are even some surfaces that are being completely relayed as astro-turf to allow for more hours of use. Not just the pitch, the entire field.
Now I realise we can’t all be playing on QLD blue-cooch grass every week-end but jiminy-crackers surely we can get some crab-grass and bindies in the summer?
Obviously, I have only been made aware of these problems since playing club cricket. And as an aside, I have enjoyed every minute since hooking up with the indomitable Cammeray Cricket Club, a club so imperious we barely lose half our games.
Whilst talking to some of our more affable competitors, there is one major problem that really stands out; the lack of new young players joining the fold of club cricket.
It seems that most clubs are aging faster than Bill Clinton and about as gracefully as Melanie Griffith.
No-one of the older generation really seems sure of how to entice them short of bribing them with Farmville credits or allowing skinny-jeans on the field of play (I’m well aware that those references may be well of date, but I have enough problems keeping up with my own peers).
I’m hopeful that now it is just a lot of kids are trying their hands at grade cricket straight out of school, as the confidence issues of previous teens seem to be non-existent in the new group coming through.
Then perhaps they will come back to club if that doesn’t work out or if work commitments become incompatible.
Perhaps Twenty20 cricket will help. I hope not.
How disappointing it would be if a game that counts among its player/observers such sharp minds as Gideon Haigh, Peter Roebuck and Harsha Bhogle, would then be dependent on those with the powers of concentration of pickled onion.
I’m convinced that won’t be the case. T20 isn’t nearly as fun to play as amateurs as it is to watch professionals.
But our traditional national sport is a most fun and rewarding game. Clubs around the country are full of great blokes, that will be new teammates, mentors, and drinking buddies.
Do yourself a favour and have a game this summer with your local club. You might just end up loving it. Worst case scenario is you’ll probably end up with a few more friends on Facebook.