Cricket is played throughout New Zealand in the summer months, informally at the beach and park, as well as in structured school, club, provincial and international competitions. In 2007–8, 6.8% of all New Zealanders aged 16 or above (over 220,000 people) played cricket at least once. This made it the 14th most popular recreational activity.
A gradual introduction
New Zealand cricket has a programme to introduce children to the game. Have-a-go cricket teaches six- to eight-year-olds the basic skills using plastic equipment. Kiwi cricket, for seven- to 10-year-olds, involves a simple version of the game. Nine- to 13-year-olds begin to use the hard ball. Children’s teams include both boys and girls in mixed teams.
Of those who played, 78.5% were male, and over two-thirds were aged 16 to 34. However, many people continued to play cricket into their 40s, sometimes in ‘golden oldies’ competitions.
Reflecting the strength of cricket on the Indian subcontinent, Asian New Zealanders were over-represented among cricket players. Pacific people whose cultures have their own form of cricket were also well represented. Māori were under-represented.
In 2009–10 there were 107,271 people involved in organised school or club teams. These consisted of 30,349 adults, 21,228 college players, and 55,694 of primary school age, with teams usually selected on a gender basis.
A century to protect the head
In 1978 cricketers started wearing helmets to protect their heads against fast balls. It had been exactly 100 years since they began wearing boxes to protect their genitals. In the interim other parts of their bodies had also been given protection: legs (with pads), fingers (with gloves) and torsos (with chest protectors).
Before the Second World War those who played for New Zealand were amateur club cricketers with other full-time employment. They shared bats and pads from a team bag and provided their own clothing. They were paid a small daily allowance.
By 2012 the top players made a full-time career out of cricket, playing wherever it was summer, usually in countries settled by the British. They could earn $6,000 for one test match and sometimes over $1 million for eight weeks playing in an IPL (Indian Premier League) tournament in India.
They were assisted by full-time coaches, excellent facilities, and medical and fitness trainers using the latest technology. Retired players were often sought after for media work.
During the 2008–09 season over 200,000 people attended international cricket matches in New Zealand. Cricket was the subject of more than 25.2 million viewer hours on SKY television, and radio broadcasts and internet ball-by-ball coverage were also popular.
The most watched forms of cricket were the shorter forms including one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket. Five-day international matches had become less popular, and fewer people watched provincial or club games.