New Ryobi sets scene for World Cup
Having set his sights on turning out for Australia at the next World Cup, Brad Haddin believes the shift of the domestic limited-overs competition to a tight tournament format will enhance the national team's chances of contending when the 50-over game's major trophy is contested in 2015.
Haddin will lead New South Wales against Tasmania in the opening match at Bankstown Oval on Sunday, heralding an event played entirely in Sydney across four venues inside the space of a month. In this it reflects the intensity and rhythm of a World Cup or Champions Trophy, a marked change from the spreading of fixtures across the entire summer.
"I reckon the way they've set it out this year is outstanding," Haddin said. "It mirrors what you do with the Australian team and it gets guys used to being in a tournament and building towards a final.
"Tournament play is about getting better as you go along and I reckon this is a great way for state cricket to start in a tournament like this. I like that it's all compressed into a tournament so from that point of view it's good and we obviously should have a home advantage if it's played in Sydney."
New South Wales have been rejuvenated by a series of off-field changes since the start of 2013, starting with the elevation of the new chairman John Warn and then a fresh chief executive in Andrew Jones. Trevor Bayliss has returned as the coach, while Haddin has happily accepted captaincy duties whenever Australia commitments allow him.
"Leaving for the Ashes it wasn't a great place to be around," Haddin said. "But coming back with the work Andrew Jones and John Warn have done with NSW Cricket it's just been a fresh start. So it was refreshing to walk back in after the Ashes campaign and see the headspace everyone was at. The office is now buzzing, we've got everything sorted, so it's up to us to continue the momentum they've started upstairs and play some good cricket."
They will be helped in this pursuit by the limited-overs tournament being staged exclusively in Sydney, granting a major advantage to Australia's most populous cricket state. Haddin admitted his competitors had a right to raise eyebrows at the loss of home ground comforts for the duration of the event.
"I would ask some questions definitely [if from another state]," he said. "The one thing about playing for your state is you like to have the home ground advantage and make teams coming to your area as uncomfortable as you possible can. So a bit of luck the Sydney crowds will get out and make every team as uncomfortable as possible."
Among the anointed venues is the picturesque but small North Sydney Oval, a former favourite with limited-overs schedulers but now notable for how its small boundaries can be exploited by the spring-loaded bats of 2013. Last summer Victoria were set a distant 351 to win by the Blues, but David Hussey and Aaron Finch ran them down with 20 balls to spare.
"We're still looking for some balls Aaron Finch hit out there last year," Haddin quipped. "It's good for the crowd. North Sydney Oval traditionally was always a great place to start the tournament, we always used to play the first one day game of the year there, so it was a great event.
"It's a great ground to play at, as is out here [the SCG], but it is an interesting ground to play at now especially with the size of the bats. We won't hide from the fact we'd like to play at the SCG, but I like the way the tournament's set up, and these are the grounds we've chosen."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here