Time is right to change our thinking
It's time for a change of plan. If you are a Taranaki cricket player or supporter and yet another disappointing season is over before Christmas, then it's necessary to create something new for 2013-14.
It would appear as though a solid pre-season buildup at the indoor wicket and an early season of club games in the rain and on artificial wickets is not providing the necessary preparation to succeed in the Chapple Cup tournament in November, nor the games leading into the new year in the Hawke Cup elimination series. It is time for those in power to be imaginative and proactive, if the ultimate aim is to win the Hawke Cup again.
With the most obvious early season problem being the lack of quality cricket because of the inclement weather, and playing on artificial pitches, the rep squad must find a way to overcome these constant hiccups. One solution could be to get on the road north and play tough fixtures on grass pitches over the three weekends leading into the Chapple Cup at Napier. Hamilton, Counties and Bay of Plenty would be possibilities.
Not only will this give the team a chance to build some form and unity, it will provide an opportunity for potential first- class players to perform at a level that will help keep out the influx of Auckland 'B' players coming into the Central Districts side.
Ideally, two-day games will build up the required concentration and stamina, but if this is not possible then one-day fixtures should be easy enough to arrange. These games need to be tough so that the squad learn how to perform as a team so they hit Napier in full flight. The first aim must be to win the Chapple Cup.
A second concept, which would require a little more vision and the input of a ton of enthusiasm, would be a late winter tour to Queensland or the Northern Territory. I'm sure Pukekura Park's recent gift to Brisbane cricket in the form of curator Joe Dravitzki could play a big part in organising such a trip and the squad would benefit hugely spending a winter together raising money and practising in preparation for such a tour.
In return, the trip would assist in building a strong bond amongst the players, while their cricket would improve vastly. It is important that players at this level are provided with a platform to improve their game, something that is not happening for the majority under the current format.
Peter Ingram's achievement of reaching the highest individual score for a Taranaki batsman last weekend was indeed a remarkable feat. He has now surpassed Rodney Brown's brilliant 200 not out against Hutt Valley at the Hutt Rec a long time ago, which brings up another point in the development of the game in Taranaki. Each season Taranaki are confined to playing a couple of tough games against Hawke's Bay and Manawatu while the rest are against fairly mediocre Heartland provinces.
This fixture list is not going to help in the development of players in the province and the association needs to branch out and organise a couple of quality fixtures against the likes of Wellington City and Hutt Valley.
This would ensure that the team and individuals are being tested fully on more than just a couple of occasions each season and promote the local players on a wider stage, as well as providing club cricketers in Taranaki with a huge incentive to get in the representative team.
In fact, with no Hawke Cup challenge on the horizon, these games could be a possibility to round out the year in February after Taranaki deal to the Magpies at the Park in late January.
In the meantime, the management need to be pondering over some of these ideas to lift the profile and growth of the game in the province before another disappointing season flies by.
I can see it now. Early October 2013: two two-day games and two one-day games in and around Brisbane. October/November: versus Hamilton and Counties on consecutive weekends. November: Win Chapple Cup in Napier. Taranaki have three players named in the Central Districts side. November-January: Taranaki win the right to challenge for the Hawke Cup. February: Win Hawke Cup and defend it once. March: End of season festival match versus Wellington City at Pukekura Park.
It feels better already.
Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.
Taranaki Daily News