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18 Dec 08 at 19:44
Finding the Right Format for Competition

I'm writing as the father of two boys (12 and 9) who play for a cricket academy in the US. Our academy (I’m its secretary and grandly termed “information director”, not a coach, btw) would like to run a small-sided indoor tournament near the end of our seemingly endless upper-Midwest winter, and I’d be very grateful for advice on the best format. The academy is a small organization -- about 25 active players, ages 6-17 – and those numbers tell their own story: while the adult game here in the States is expanding quite fast, and doing very well, thank you, the youth game is undernourished nationally and growing more slowly locally. So everything involving youth cricket here requires special efforts and generates special circumstances. For example, while we have practice twice a week all summer, there are relatively few opportunities to play matches and some of them require a lot of expensive travel (last season, the academy U-13/14 team that my sons play for went all the way to California for a tournament and also went to Toronto, as well as competing in the tournament our own academy hosted, which brought in teams from 100s of miles away; in total over the entire season my sons played eight matches). Getting anything together during the winter will be a really big challenge, and I don’t think that we will be able to rely on the participation of out-of-town teams as we can for a summer tournament. I'm trying to devise a small-sided format that would be good for development, would promote the sport, and would get as many boys as possible involved, but we need to make it workable with the players we can recruit locally. An optimistic estimate is that we could get six six-a-side teams to register for a tournament that would take place over one day (using one of our local sports domes or the like, on a day when rental costs are low), and using a modified version of the Hong Kong Sixes tournament rules -- five overs per innings, each player except the WK bowls one over, etc. But here's the real problem: while my nine-year-old is a perfectly good XIth man on a U-13 or U-14 side in a tournament where other teams also have a range of players of different ages (as is usually the case, because most academies are small), we need to devise a format for this small-sided competition that will ensure that locally-formed, _ad hoc_ teams are also equally balanced. We certainly don't have enough players to have a series of age brackets, and we want to avoid ending up with one team consisting of six of the oldest local juniors dominating competition. So here's my main question -- does anyone know of any effective "handicapping" systems for mixed-age teams that encourage age balance? As I started planning this tournament, I thought of setting an anticipated average aggregate age of 84 (six fourteen-year-olds), and awarding teams two runs for every year their own aggregate age was lower, or deducting two for every year over. I thought that would encourage teams to find a balance of ages, would make it possible to include older players in the tournament without letting them dominate, and would make the younger players feel wanted. But is that the right way to go, and are my numbers appropriate? Btw, we’ll probably be using half of a full-sized indoor football pitch as the playing area. I thought that scoring for balls hit against the sides would be: two runs for any ball that hits either side, four for a straight hit, two for a ball that hits the wall behind, any ball that hits the ceiling is a dismissal. But I’d be very grateful for any improvements on those suggested rules, too. As ever, with children’s sport, we need to balance development and competition, and what makes things hard in our case is that we can’t divide players by age, since we simply don’t have enough, so we always need to find formats that will allow a wide range of ages to participate in the same activity.


20 Dec 08 at 07:44

Great to hear from you, it sounds like you have quite the challenge.

My own club used to host outdoor six-a-side tournaments for young players and the way we worked it is like this:

  • 6 players per team: 2x under 13, 2x under 15 and 2x under 17
  • 5 or 10 overs per innings, everyone bowls an over (or 2) except the keeper.
  • Pairs format so if you get out you lose 5 runs but keep batting for 2 overs (start on 200)
  • u-13 bowlers can only bowl to u-13 batsmen

You would need to adapt this but it worked well for us. Any help?


20 Dec 08 at 12:21

Thanks, David. Yes, we use formats similar to your suggestion quite a lot in practice matches. However, for the tournament we're planning, we need to attract players from outside the club, so I'm looking for a format that will ensure balance without having so many restrictions that it will discourage registrations. Perhaps we should try a modified version of what you suggest -- 3xU13 + 3XU18, for example.

20 Dec 08 at 20:38

I'd suggest you adopt 'traditional'  Indoor Cricket rules - an extremely popular game in Australia, NZ and South Africa:  8 per side : Players bat in pairs for 4 overs per pair:   6 if you hit the back wall on the full, 4 if you hit the back wall on bounce/touched.  2 runs if you hit side walls at batsmans half, 3 if you hit side walls at bowlers half. all other runs are by normal running between wickets.   Batsman do not 'get out' they keep batting for their entire 4 overs, but you Deduct 5 runs from the batting side's score for every wicket lost.   Each bowler allowed 2 overs (everyone must bowl - including Keeper.   Limit bowler's run ups to 5-6 paces.for complete rules etc  look here a fast, fun game that keeps everyone involved and gives everyone a go.. 

22 Dec 08 at 15:13

Sounds good, let me know how it goes and what you decide.

24 Dec 08 at 04:25

Admin, thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I've looked at Southern Hemisphere indoor cricket, and we use variants of those rules, too, during various indoor practice matches over the winter. The results are, indeed, fun and fast. I can testify, though, that umpiring such practice matches is not always easy, since every batsman is always certain that his shot went to the wall for the maximum, while every bowler is always convinced that every uppish mis-hit went all the way to the ceiling (for a dismissal)...

Right now our biggest challenge, however, is to find a tournament format which will attract _ad hoc_ teams (in the manner of small-sided soccer tournaments here in the US, where you register a team just for one tournament, usually forming the team from among the players you know well and enjoy playing with), but _without age brackets_. We just don't have enough players in any one age group, so we can't have U-12, U-14, etc brackets; instead, we need to find a way to attract as many players as possible, while also creating relatively even competition between teams. So we're looking for a way to encourage the formation of teams which include players of different ages. Hence my suggestion for a "handicapping" system (see above). If anyone has seen or used any tournament registration system that was effective at evening things out, while working with a diverse age pool, I'd be very glad to hear of it. David's suggestion is good, but I'm worried that we don't have the critical mass to ensure the formation of five or six symmetrical teams (of different age groups).

Obviously, this is a problem for areas where cricket is very much a minority sport (here in the US the youth game is played almost entirely by the children of expats from cricketing countries, and this is a country where children who like sport are spoilt for choice, so most children of cricketing parents end up playing baseball, American football, ice hockey, etc, etc, like everyone else). Thus our particular challenge in devising a tournament format may not be familiar to most readers of the forum. But it is, in extreme form, a variant of one of the basic problems with youth sport -- balancing competition and development.

Many thanks for all the suggestions so far. I’d be most grateful for other comments.