The first game of the domestic cricket season begins tomorrow with the first match of the Toyota Futures League between Tasmania and Victoria in Queensland.
Toyota Futures League fixture
Former Australian team head coach and coach of the emerging South Australian Redbacks Tim Nielsen said the tournament was critical for the development of first class players.
"The Futures League works in a similar kind of way to a reserve grade team in a football club," he said.
"The main idea is, younger players who aren't necessarily ready to play at first class level get the chance to experience four-day cricket."
The League fills the gap between two-day club cricket and the four-day Bupa Sheffield Shield competition.
It is the national second XI competition and provides a pathway into first-class cricket for the best young talent in the country.
Teams play four games throughout the season, six players in each team must be under 23 years and teams can play with 12 players.
Nielsen said the structure means States can use the Toyota Futures League to enhance their first-class teams.
"States use the Futures League in a number of different ways," he said.
"They'll use it to try and push young talent through and have a look at them; They'll use it to ensure players, who are right on the verge of playing in the first class side, get some exposure to the four-day format before they come in."
"The other big one is to ensure players coming back from injury are getting enough cricket under their belt, especially fast bowlers, so they don't go from two-day cricket in club-land straight to a four-day game at Sheffield Shield level with the increased intensity and the long duration," Nielsen said.
Australian Test and ODI bowler James Pattinson is one example of a first-class player to use the League to aid his return to international cricket after injury.
The flexibility of the League allowed coaches to monitor his bowling and slowly increase his workload before returning to full capacity for the Victorian Bushrangers and the Australian ODI team after injuring his foot during the Vodafone Test Series v India last summer.
The League is also for many the first time they get to don their state colours, an honour taken very seriously said Nielsen.
The competition is flat out," he said.
"When the players are out there, they all understand good performances here are a good indicator of whether they should be selected to play at the next level or not."
"But my opinion is, its not about whether you win or lose. It's more important to expose these players and give them the opportunity and the experience of playing in four-day cricket against a better quality of opposition, and experience all the things that go with being a first class cricketer - having to play away from home and travel and then play four days in a row - so at least they've had some experience at at Futures League level before they start playing for their state."
Tasmania will play Victoria in the first match of the Toyota Futures League tomorrow at John Blanck Oval on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
The squads are:
Steve Cazzulino (c)
Timm van der Gugten
Alex Keath (C)
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 10 September, 2012 3:37PM AEDT