HAMISH BIDWELL The Hawke's Bay men's and club teams will play with white balls in coloured clobber, but the most interesting aspect of the coming season is the introduction of Sunday League cricket.
Very much the pet project of Hawke's Bay Cricket Association chief executive, Yorkshireman Paul Anderson, the Sunday League is seen as a way of bringing families back to the game. "The Westshore is sponsoring the Sunday League, which will be an eight-round competition alternating between Nelson Park and Cornwall that will bring a little bit of England to Hawke's Bay," Anderson said.
"The idea is each (of the three games) will stop at the same time and the players will come up to the pavilion and have tea. It's 35 overs, with seven over per bowler, limited run ups and none of the one-day rules or field settings.
"I wanted to get it off the ground because there are so many men in their 30s, who can't commit to playing every Saturday, or practicing. We need to bring some of those people back to the game and, already, the enthusiasm seems to be high.
"I know all the Findlays are going to play one game and Dale Smidt is going to play with Stevie. We've heard Ian Smith wants to play and Mike Patton and it will be really great to see those kinds of people out there. It's just a great opportunity for fathers to play with sons and to introduce youngsters to men's cricket.
"There's a big difference between playing against a men's team for your school first XI and actually being in a men's team. I started playing Sunday League cricket as a 12 or 13-year old and it was fantastic to play alongside some of those wily old characters.
"One of the things cricket has to do is modify itself to attract people to play. It's not just a case of saying 'it's Saturday at this time; take it or leave it'. We have to find different ways of attracting people to the game and this is one.
"With fathers and sons playing, I'm hoping whole families will come along on a Sunday afternoon to watch cricket. That doesn't happen in Hawke's Bay, whereas in the UK it's common.
"By shortening the hours of play and encouraging families to be a part of it, you're providing a form of cricket that's more inclusive. When you do that, that's when it hopefully becomes more sustainable."
In terms of the real cricket, the Professionals mens' premier competition looms as an even one. After a full round of two-day matches, cricket resumes after Christmas with a Twenty20 weekend on January 5 and 6, followed by two rounds of one-dayers.
By adding white balls and coloured clothing, Anderson hopes to replicate some of the conditions the better players will face in Chapple Cup and State Shield cricket. And hopefully make the club stuff a more appealing proposition for spectators.
One of Anderson's other goals has been to make Nelson Park something of a cricket destination. The Kelt Capital Magpies have been an unwitting conspirator in that, with their stellar season meaning McLean Park will not be ready to host Central Districts' opening State Championship match against Otago.
That means Nelson Park will host the November 12-15 game.