Different Ages & Different Stages - FAQ's

Please find below Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for the new Different Ages & Different Stages formats.

1. Why have we done this?
2. How will this help skill development?
3. Why do we need shorter pitches?
4. What about kids that can already play on full length pitches?
5. Is the bowling too fast when playing on shorter pitch lengths?
6. Is Different Ages & Different Stages safe?
7. How does this help the bowlers, batters and fielders?
8. How will these changes affect the wicketkeepers?
9. How will these changes affect coaching?
10. What is a player centred approach?
11. What if there is a player that is too good for the grade that they are playing in?
12. Why are these changes being made at district cricket level?

Why have we done this?
Cricket needs to be tailor-made for young New Zealanders, so they too can enjoy the dynamic experience they witness while watching live cricket.
Different Ages & Different Stages makes the game more accessible for Kiwi kids by making it their size, meaning;

  • Shorter pitch lengths
  • Fewer playing numbers
  • Shortened boundaries

Kids can participate at their age and stage appropriate level. This will provide a consistent, coordinated and aligned national approach. Ultimately this will increase involvement for children, giving them various dynamic experiences.

How will this help skill development?
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) engaged with Cricket Australia (CA) after CA conducted extensive research around the way junior cricket is played and after the collection of data from its piloted new formats.
The CA match data provided conclusive evidence that the modifications helped aid successful outcomes for the participant;

  • 43% more runs of the bat
  • 35% less wides/no balls in total score
  • 66% increase in boundaries scored
  • 53% balls on a good length
  • 13% increase in balls being hit
  • 24% less dot balls

More Balls in Play + More Action = Better Skill Development

Why do we need shorter pitches?
Aligning the pitch lengths to the age and stage of the participants results in bowling being carried out at a more appropriate length. On shortened pitches bowlers can perform a more natural bowling action. They will be able to deliver the ball with a release angle more appropriate to their age (ball trajectory will have a flatter arc). Bowling on pitches that are too long results in deliveries being looped to ensure the ball reaches the batter, looped deliveries are often too slow and bounce multiple times. Bowlers will be able to develop their skills such as inswing and outswing at a younger age because they are not straining to get the ball to the other end. Due to the bowlers being able to bowl a more natural action on shortened pitches, the accuracy of the bowler improves resulting in more balls being hittable for the batters. This in turn will bring the fielders into play more.

What about kids who can already play on full length pitches?
Those that are currently bowling on full-length pitches will still go through the same changes as others for the age and stage revised formats. Bowlers that can bowl on a full-length pitch will still benefit from bowling on age and stage appropriate pitch length as it will best suit their natural bowling action.

There may be the situation where a bowler may be bowling on an 18m pitch but due to their stage are ready to be bowling on a full-length pitch. Situations like this can be monitored on a case by case basis by the local association and the player can be promoted to a higher grade of play to better match their appropriate stage level.

Is the bowling too fast when playing on shorter pitch lengths?
The shortened pitch lengths doesn’t increase the top pace of the deliveries faced by the batters, rather the batters have less reaction time to play their shots. Of course, bowlers who previously struggled to bowl on a full-length pitch will now be able to bowl more accurate, faster paced balls on shortened pitches but the top pace deliveries batters will face will be no quicker than before.

Initially batters may face some difficulties in adapting to the shortened pitch lengths but they will learn (and should be coached to) pick up on cues from the bowlers and the ball being bowled i.e. to learn to watch the ball come out of the hand rather than picking it up after release or once it bounces, to pick up on the length and width of the delivery as early as possible and to take a positive forward or backward step when playing the ball.

More regular pace on the ball will aid the batters in piercing the field and scoring boundaries. Batters will also have more opportunities to play defensive and attacking shots off both back and front foot with a vertical bat. The shortened pitches increase the number of bat on ball opportunities therefore the revised formats help to improve the skill of the batters as well as the bowlers.

Is Different Ages & Different Stages safe?
The shortened pitch lengths doesn’t increase the top pace of the deliveries faced by the batters, rather the batters have less reaction time to play their shots. Of course, bowlers who previously struggled to bowl on a full-length pitch will now be able to bowl more accurate, faster paced balls on shortened pitches but the top pace deliveries batters will face will be no quicker than before.

Shortened pitch lengths result in more full/good length balls, no greater amount of waist high full tosses nor any greater number of shorter pitched deliveries. This was proven in Cricket Australia’s 2016/17 pilots of its revised junior formats.

Junior cricketers have a vast range of protective gear available to use while they play. A helmet, gloves and batting pads are a requirement for all batters when taking strike. There are also additional options of protective gear that can be worn to the comfort of the batter; thigh pad, chest pad, arm guard and elbow guard.

The different stages within NZC’s revised junior formats can be played with a modified ball as opposed to the traditional hard ball. The modified ball can be a good option for players as they take time to get used to the shortened pitches and other revised elements.

There may be the situation where a bowler may be bowling on a shortened pitch but due to their stage are ready to be bowling on a full-length pitch. Situations like this can be monitored on a case by case basis by the local association and the player can be promoted to a higher grade of play to better match their appropriate stage level.

How does this help the bowlers, batters and fielders?
On shortened pitches bowlers can perform a more natural bowling action. They will be able to deliver the ball with a release angle more appropriate to their age (ball trajectory will have a flatter arc). This in turn improves the accuracy of the bowler resulting in more balls being hittable for the batters. Batters will better develop their skills as the shortened pitches increase bat on ball opportunities as well as the runs and boundaries scored off the bat. Running between the wickets will also improve due to more bat on ball opportunities. Fielders will improve their agility, anticipation and diving skills with fewer fielders because they need to cover more ground than before. Additional to this the more bat on ball opportunities and runs being scored because of the shortened pitches leads to a much higher involvement required from the fielders throughout the match. Catches behind the wicket are more likely due to the extra carry on the ball.

How will these changes affect the wicketkeepers?
The shortening of pitches to the age and stage appropriate length will result in the balls being bowled carrying to a more natural catchable height for the wicketkeepers. The carry will most likely be quicker than wicketkeepers have dealt with before therefore wicketkeeping specific coaching will aid wicketkeepers in developing their skills within the revised age and stage formats.

How will these changes affect coaching?
Different Ages & Different Stages will require coaches to focus more on skill development and tactical awareness than before. Less emphasis will be placed on the result of the match as the key objectives for Different Ages & Different Stages are to make junior cricket more accessible, increase participants overall involvement and accelerate skill development.

What is a player centred approach?

Richard Pithey, NZC Community Cricket Coach Manager explains what a player centred approach actually means:

“The main principle is that the main actor is the player; not the coach, not the team. Then it’s very easy to understand that in junior cricket we have to do what is in their best interests. It’s a tailor-made approach. Who is in front of me? Look at the characteristics of the player and then adapt the environment to fit them”.

“Creating a learning environment at practices and matches is very important for player development and enjoyment. Learning and improving is the number one source of enjoyment for players”.

What if there is a player that is too good for the grade that they are playing in?
There may be the situation where a bowler could be bowling on a shortened pitch but due to their stage are ready to be bowling on a full-length pitch, or alternatively a batter may not be getting challenged enough within his/her age group. Situations like this can be monitored on a case by case basis by the local association and the player can be promoted to a higher grade of play to better match their appropriate stage level.

Richard Pithey, NZC Community Cricket Coach Manager explains what approach can be made if cricket is being delivered within a small district or region where moving a player up a grade may not be possible:

“There will often be a variety of abilities and biological ages in every team. This is likely to be more noticeable in teams from rural areas where the population is fewer and further apart and can present coaches with some challenges. Coaches should remember that the players needs should be foremost in their minds”.

“The environment can be adapted by coaches collaborating with each other to match the players with higher abilities against each other within the game or encouraging players to develop their skills by including constraints such as: a very fast bowler could use the match situation to practice skills such as slower balls, yorkers or in/out swingers when bowling to weaker batters and batters could be asked to increase their strike rate by rotating the strike off every ball, or looking to score on one side of the wicket if facing weaker bowlers. The major benefit is that all players improve, there are appropriate challenges, they enjoy their experience, are retained in cricket and we as a nation will develop a bigger pool of more skilful players”.

What are these changes being made at district cricket level?

The purpose of district cricket is to provide further coaching, development and playing opportunities for the players involved. Therefore, the district cricket format should stay consistent with the primary and intermediate cricket formats to enable the players to continue their skill development. Having the changes at district cricket aligns the format with the fundamental reasons for the introduction of the revised junior formats; fast paced, action packed, maximum involvement and accelerated skill development.

Paul Wiseman, NZC Talent ID Manager further supports NZC’s decision on changes being made at district cricket level:

“Although some future BLACKCAPS and WHTE FERNS (not all) will come through intermediate district tournaments, producing future BLACKCAPS and WHITE FERNS is not the focus of these tournaments. The purpose should be to create further coaching, development and playing opportunities for those players involved. Some players may not play higher age group tournaments so it is important to focus the tournament around the participating players”.

“There has been a lot of evidence-based research to back up the reduction to 9 players a side at this age group and the results have produced more involvement resulting in accelerated skill development and a better player and parent experience. With this in mind there wouldn’t be significant benefits to change the format for intermediate district tournaments”.

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