By Ahmad Khawaja
Credit: Powershots Photography
The Big Picture
The indoor cricket calendar is winding up as the biggest tournament of the year hits the shores of New Zealand this week. The World Indoor Cricket Federation (WICF) Junior World Series of Indoor Cricket is taking place in Christchurch from Saturday as the city plays host to four other countries vying for the title of Junior World Champions in their respective grades.
The triennial event was last held in Brisbane, Australia in 2015 where Australia performed a clean sweep of all the grades. Unsurprisingly, they have been the dominant side in previous editions of the tournament, similar to their senior teams. New Zealand and South Africa have also been victorious previously.
This time around teams from South Africa, England, Australia and Singapore are travelling over to join the hosts and a New Zealand A side (tournament hosts may enter a second development side into a WICF international tournament). They will compete in grades featuring the 13 & Under Boys, 15 & Under Boys, 17 & Under Boys and 17 & Under Girls' teams.
The tournament kicks off on Saturday 29 September and will be held at the Action Indoor Sports Stadium Hornby, regarded as one of the premier indoor sports facilities in New Zealand. The opening ceremony begins at 4pm and then it will be straight into the action with the first matches taking at 6pm that evening, and the finals being held the following Saturday 6 October.
The fixture schedule has been released and is available on the Indoor Cricket New Zealand (ICNZ) website (https://indoorcricketnz.org.nz). Daily updates and reporting will also be available on the website and partner site The Pioneer Australia (https://thepioneerau.weebly.com). Streaming of matches in the final three days will also be available to watch through streaming partner BLive and will be shown on Facebook through the World Indoor Cricket Federation, Indoor Cricket New Zealand (ICNZ) and Indoor Cricket Canterbury Facebook pages. Those details will also be available later this week.
Bringing Junior Indoor Cricket into the spotlight
Credit: New Zealand Cricket
Christchurch played host to the New Zealand Junior Provincial Championships back in July which was a great success as an unprecedented 28 teams entered the competition, making it the largest Junior Provincial Championships hosted in New Zealand. Australia's junior programme continues to move from strength to strength with their National Junior Championships continuing to bring out some exciting new talent. This year they had two sides from Singapore come over to compete in the 13 & Under Boys and 17 & Under Boys' divisions respectively, which added another layer to development at the world junior level.
Tournament director and ICNZ Cricket Executive Mark Cini is looking forward to the event and the hosting of a successful tournament. “It’s going to be huge. Including teams, officials, parents and spectators, we are expecting upwards of 1,000 people to be present for the event, which is massive in context, especially coming off a successful Club Nationals tournament here just two weeks ago”, said Cini. “We are 24 hours off the first lot of teams arriving. From what I have heard all trainings have gone well and there will be practice sessions this week before the tournament starts. All information has been rolled out to the sides and the facilities are ready. We are just working on final preparations now”.
Cini was also excited at the prospect of showcasing Christchurch and the Canterbury region to visiting teams, and recognised the work done by local businesses to support the event. “Firstly, the WICF should be applauded for awarding the event to New Zealand. From a city point of view, it gives us the opportunity to host a world event and showcase New Zealand and Christchurch, providing hospitality to the visiting countries”, said Cini. He continued “we’ve had great support from the Christchurch City Council, and other local businesses which will offer attractions to teams (there will be a rest day on Wednesday 3 October) and we are very grateful for that”.
Australia come in as favourites, but New Zealand ready for challenge
As expected, the Australians will arrive looking to assert themselves as the dominant force, just as they have in previous tournaments, but New Zealand will have the hometown support behind them. “We probably have stretched ourselves a bit with eight teams, but in saying that we have 80 quality players lined up across the grades. New Zealand have gone about their preparation quietly, and will really get into it once the practice games start. It works both ways – there is a bit of expectation playing at home, but at the same time they will have all the support behind them”, said Cini. “Team Black will certainly be ready to go come game time”. New Zealand will also be bolstered by having players who have played at world tournaments before, including 21 & Under representatives Ryan James, Saffron Wilson and Skye Bowden.
“Australia are the favourites for sure and come in with the reputation and quality in their sides. South Africa have equipped themselves very well and I think are a very underrated side. And it’s just great to see England especially come over. Whilst Singapore always commit to playing tournaments even though they are probably the least funded; that’s outstanding”, exclaimed Cini.
In any case, the tournament is shaping up to be an exciting one. There are a record number of children playing indoor cricket in New Zealand at the moment, and it’s an exciting time to be playing the sport. With the Junior World Series taking place this week, it’s another step forward for the development of Junior Indoor Cricket.