| CAIRNS: In charge of the home team
Christchurch: The Indians will not only be kicking off their tour of New Zealand Wednesday evening, they will also be making their debut in a modified version of cricket which is popular only in these parts.
The Indian versus Max Blacks game will see both teams playing two innings but the total duration will be no more than three-and-a-half hours.
If that is not bizarre enough, boundaries are worth eight and 12 runs if hit in the Max zone. Besides 11 men in the field, an additional specialist fielder is allowed.
Super Max is a game of hit and giggle but already a part of New Zealand’s domestic schedule and could be cricket’s master plan to spread its pitch in the affluent European and US market.
Each innings consists of 10 overs to be completed in 45 minutes. A Max zone is deep in front of a batsman on strike where no fielder is allowed as the ball is being delivered though a catch inside the marked area is legal.
A brainchild of New Zealand captain-turned-television commentator Martin Crowe, Max cricket is part of a staple of sports programmes dished out by Sky Television. Wednesday’s game, too, will be telecast live in India.
“The two innings format means the game is rarely dead even after first innings like in a one-dayer,” said Crowe. “It also forces bowlers to develop strategies to bowl at the death and batsmen are expected to hit straight.
“As for no-ball, the next ball is a free hit because no batsman in the history of the game has ever heard a no-ball call early and done anything with it.”
The Indians are not too serious about the game but New Zealand are treating it as absolutely vital to their plans this summer.
The likes of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid may not play while Harbhajan Singh is definitely ruled out because of fever.
“It is nothing to get worried about and I should be okay in a day’s time,” said Harbhajan who has been flooded with calls after being caught on the wrong foot on the team’s arrival at the Auckland airport Monday.
New Zealand Cricket boss Martin Snedden is hoping Max cricket clicks with the audience in India and gives it an impetus.
“If they enjoy Max cricket, it could take off there in a big way,” said Snedden.
The hosts’ seriousness can be gauged by the strength of their side they have chosen. Star allrounder Chris Cairns is leading the team, although he has ruled himself out of the first Test because he has still not recovered 100 per cent from an injury.
There are several other national team players, including Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Shane Bond, Chris Nevin and Jacob Oram.
THE MAX BLACKS
Chris Cairns (captain), Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Tama Canning, Chris Harris, Paul Hitchcock, Brendon McCallum, Craig McMillan, Chris Nevin, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris.