THE SOUTH-WEST is in the depth of winter but the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association's leaders have been working hard to improve the standard of cricket before the heat of summer returns.
WDCA chairperson Gordon McLeod revealed a number of alterations to rules, the 2019-20 season's key dates and a draft fixture structure following the association's annual general meeting.
The 2019-20 season is expected to kick-off on October 5 with division one beginning the summer with a series of one-day matches.
In the first nine weeks of the season division one will play one-day games with every team playing each other once before a sole two-day fixture before Christmas.
It will be followed by two rounds of T-20s to be played on the same day just before the mid-season break for the holiday period.
The remaining two rounds and finals of the shortest format of the game will be played over the one weekend following the break.
The rest of the season will consist of the remaining two day fixtures with the semi-finals on March 14-15 and the grand final the week after (March 21-22).
Division two, which will continue its split of two-day and one-day matches but with 13 teams this season, begins the week after division one (October 12).
Division three, in which teams will now be able to bowl five overs from each end in a bid by the WDCA to speed up matches, returns on October 19.
With five of the WDCA's turf wickets in use this winter, Gordon McLeod said the association would still play every single division one match of all formats on turf.
"We are aiming to play turf cricket on the first day of the season," he said.
"We haven't done it in a while because it takes two to three weeks to get them done and there were grounds last year that weren't ready. The weather conditions this year haven't been terribly wet.
"Some of the grounds have no football on them so we can have wickets prepared. Grounds like Avery's Paddock (Port Fairy), Ubergang Oval (Allansford), Jetty Flat (Warrnambool) and Jack Keane Oval (Koroit) could be prepared.
"Our aim is to play as much turf cricket as we can as this is what the division one competition is all about."
Last year the first three matches of the one-day fixture were played on hard wickets at Bushfield, Brierly number two, L.P. Wenborn, J.F. McLean, Harris Street and Allen ovals before moving to turf.
Draws will be less common this season with games to be decided after two days of play.
After three season's the association's division one returns to maximum of 80 overs a day to ensure a result is achieved at the end of a match.
"It was clear that the clubs weren't keen on playing cricket and not getting a result," McLeod said of the decision behind the change
"We (the board) wanted it and brought it in because we felt it was an opportunity for captains to strategise the game and work out how they could get maximum points.
"But it turned out we had some draws in there which weren't well received so we felt that it was better for it to go back to where we were three years ago with everyone playing for a win."
The association has shifted its heat policy to ensure the safety of players and officials when the mercury rises to extreme levels.
McLeod confirmed the temperature limit has been reduced from 40 to 38 following issues raised by clubs following round 17 last season, after Russells Creek and Dennington were sent in to bowl in 38.6 degree heat against Merrivale and Woodford.
Players were under the impression the WDCA's extreme heat policy held if the temperature exceeded 38 degrees at the start of play then matches would be cancelled.
But an email was sent out to umpires before round 17 - and relayed to captains soon after - clarified the 38 degrees policy only applied when the forecast was for 40 degrees or above, with play only to be stopped if the heat exceeded that mark during the day.
"Now once it reaches 38 degrees, and that will be actual temperature not forecast, you don't play until it reaches below that again," McLeod said.
One-day and T-20 matches will carry extra significance with more points on offer for teams on the overall ladder.
In previous years one-day matches were worth four points a win and T-20s worth just two.
This season both will be bumped up to six points for a victory to level out the points across all three formats.
"We decided the three formats were all important and the clubs can benefit from the other formats at the end of the season," McLeod said. "If they don't get in the (one-day or T-20) final they are still playing for something so we increased the points to six for each."
Points for two-day games remain the same. Teams will receive 10 points for outright victories.
Player eligibility for finals has been significantly adjusted for two-day fixtures.
Previously playing a T-20 and one-day matches would count as a game towards finals qualifications while playing both days of a two-day fixture counted as one game.
This season one day of a two-day match will be counted as a game, meaning if players play both days of the longer format they will receive two games towards their eligibility.
McLeod said the decision to alter the criteria for finals eligibility was based on the "limitations for qualification" to finals.
"Because of club numbers and player availability it complicated it and restricted people selecting their best team in finals and we felt this way gives them more scope to manage their teams better," he said.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.