Cricket Australia has thrown out the rule book for young players in a bid to use the fun of backyard cricket as the driving force of its junior program.
In stage one of the new program, no batter gets out — a move purists might argue is just not cricket.
Which is precisely the idea. Teams are also smaller and pitches are shorter, in a bid to make the game a bit easier.
Some experts, like Queensland University of Technology exercise specialist Dr Ian Renshaw, believe backyard cricket rules are a much better way of teaching children how to play.
He believes backyard cricket is what has made Australia such a dominant force in world cricket.
Dr Renshaw, father of Australian batsman Matthew Renshaw, was one of the consultants who developed the changes to junior cricket.
“We don’t see many kids playing on the street, we don’t see them playing at the park or in the backyard anymore,” he said.
“That’s where you got the number of hours of practice, where you got your unique way of playing. It was shaped by that backyard, and you just played for hours, you played until it got dark and you still played on if you could find a street light.
“That makes you good — that amount of practice is something that develops you as a player.”
Cricket Australia wants to get kids batting, bowling and fielding during a game for longer periods to make the game more enjoyable.
But that can be difficult under the proper rules — they found many younger children simply did not have the skill levels for the formal version of the game.
Stage one of the new junior program reduces the number of fielders from 11 to 7, meaning there is more space for a batsman to hit a boundary.
Teams play on a cricket pitch size of 16 metres instead of the traditional 20.1-metre pitch, which has meant a drastic reduction in wides.
Games are shorter, cut from 30 to 20 overs with shorter, 40-metre boundaries, and everyone is given a chance to bat, bowl, field, and wicket-keep every week.
Arguably the biggest change in stage one of the program is that nobody gets out.
But as kids get older and progress through stages two and three of the pathway, they will start to learn more of the techniques required to become good cricketers.
Deborah Love is implementing the new format at Souths Junior Cricket club in Brisbane.
“I’ve found it great,” she said.
“For the under 10s, the difference with the shorter match, going from 30 overs to 20 overs really good for that age group.”
Ms Love said the relaxed format removed the pain some kids suffered when they were given out.
“When the kids are young, if they get out and they’ve got to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the game that’s not much fun for them,” she said.
“If they’re getting bored now at under 10s, they’ll say, ‘Mum I don’t want to play again next season’, but if they can get a good bat, they’ll say, ‘Yep, I want to keep on playing’.”
The changes have also simplified the role of coaches at the junior level, who are now being instructed not to try and find the next great player for Australia.
“We’re here to help them enjoy the game,” said Souths under 10s coach Alan Goodreds.
“If the next Mitchell Johnson appears along the way that’s a bonus. They’ll be picked up along their path by people in the club, Queensland Cricket, then ultimately Cricket Australia itself.
“We’re solely here to help the kids enjoy the games.”