For domestic cricket fans this is an exciting time of the year, with the new County Cricket season almost upon us and cricket leagues across the country preparing to kick-start again. Yet, before you know it, the pads will be getting put away again and the wickets covered for the final time as seasons end and autumn and winter arrive.
For many, a British cricketing winter entails heading to the nets or simply not playing at all. Yet for some it provides the chance to keep their cricket seasons going by heading to play the game in the Southern Hemisphere. One of the most popular places people jet out to is New Zealand and you can do exactly that through a cricket gap year programme with Sport Lived.
In fact, if there is one place that young cricketers determined to improve their games should want to go to at present it is the land that gave the sport the likes of Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Stephen Flemming. It was New Zealand who captured the imagination in last year’s Cricket World Cup, eventually falling just short in the final against their Australian neighbours. It was New Zealand who were a breath of fresh air last summer with their attacking and positive brand of cricket during the Test match and ODI series against England. And now it is the Black Caps again who are excelling in the current World T20 World Cup by reaching the semi-finals at the expense of Australia and Pakistan. They are now currently ranked 2nd in the World for ODIs, 3rd for T20s and gaining ground quickly on England, Pakistan and South Africa in the Test rankings. Cricket in New Zealand is most certainly on the rise and is right now one of the places to be playing the sport.
So now you’ve been drawn to the New Zealand shop window, what can you expect to find inside? As you might expect, the passion for the sport in this country of just over 4.5 million people is palpable, from the young boys and girls learning the game at school to the many clubs found on both islands and those playing professionally. The country is renowned for its sporting culture and cricket is at the centre of it. A gap year there would leave you more enthused for the game than ever before.
The professional scene treats fans to a number of top clubs including the Otago Volts, based in the city of Dunedin where Sport Lived run its cricket programmes. Competitions including The Ford Trophy, the Super Smash and the Plunket Shield offer up both drama and quality as they are fought out at some of the most historic and picturesque grounds in the world such as Eden Park, Seddon Park and the University Oval. The cricket facilities in general that are found at club level are one of the major reasons for why this country is so appealing to players of all ages, abilities and nations. Indeed, Sport Lived participants will play and train at clubs chosen for both their supreme facilities and coaching.
Going to play cricket in New Zealand provides young players with their best opportunity yet to develop as cricketers. Areas of your game that need improving will be enhanced, areas of strength will be further refined. Playing out of your comfort zone in a totally new environment forces you to raise your game to the next level, leaving you coming home a far more rounded player and character. To give two examples, batting can be challenging on pitches that are not only often bouncy and quick but which offer swing and seam movement due to the relative humidity and moisture under the surface. On the other hand, bowlers often have to dig deep and adjust during a match in order to cope with strong winds that can decrease the pace of the ball.
So if you’ve made up your mind that a stint playing cricket in New Zealand is for you, why should you do it with Sport Lived? A variety of programmes are on offer, from the full-season 25-week programme to mini-seasons that can run from 4 weeks up to 16. Participants have a club hand-picked for them based on their ability and will get to train 2-3 times a week with matches at weekends across different formats including two day and one day matches and Twenty20 cricket. The clubs selected by Sport Lived have a number of men’s and women’s teams and if you’re aiming to play at the uppermost level possible then you could be competing in the highest provincial leagues. To read more about Sport Lived’s cricket gap year programmes in New Zealand, click here.
Excellent clubs and facilities, testing but rewarding conditions and a fervour for the sport that runs deep – what more could a young cricketer want from a cricket gap year destination? Get yourself to New Zealand. Get playing cricket as a Kiwi.