With Messrs Flintoff and Pietersen looking to pocket a cool £1million pounds each for playing six games in the Indian Premier League you might be forgiven for thinking that cricket’s future had never been rosier. However the picture at school level paints a very different and alarming picture.
Over the last decade the independent schools, long-term bedrock of schools cricket, with carefully laid pitches and the employment of former professionals as cricket coaches, have shortened fixture lists due to the increasing pressure to gain higher grades in GCSE and A-level examinations.
The summer term is also far shorter than the season itself and the English weather taking a further toll also plays its part in reducing the fixture list still further.
However the latest reason cited as being responsible for the decline has focused on the almost complete lack of cricket broadcast on terrestrial television leading to a dearth of role models easily seen and identified by the youngest school-age children.
Moreover, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2009 has described as “chilling research” a survey carried out among more than 26,000 children from secondary schools in south London, which found that cricket was ranked 21st on the list of sports they favour, behind even archery and rounders!
The conclusion is that much of the impetus gained from winning the Ashes in 2005 has been lost. However there are those working hard to develop cricket among the youngest learners in urban areas, such as Greater London, who would disagree.
Capital Kids Cricket was formed by a group of volunteers in 1990 when the alarming disappearance of cricket from the sports curriculum of inner-London state primary schools became clear. A massive decline meant only about 20 primary schools out of more than 800 in the 16 inner-London boroughs were still teaching even a basic form of cricket.
William Greaves, who founded the group, has worked tirelessly to help turn this around. He now has support from the great and good in the sport and recently celebrated their first ‘old boy’ as an England cricketer, Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara.
Capital Kids Cricket first enthused Bopara as a nine-year-old at his Newham primary school. They have also developed a group of players who have gone on to join county cricket.
“Cricket is not just a game. It is an educational opportunity for children to learn social behaviour: personal achievement, team co-operation, ambition, leadership, respect for leadership, and respect for rules,” Greaves said.
“There has been dramatic improvement. Now a great majority of those 800 primary schools actively teach cricket to their children – thanks to Capital Kids Cricket.”
Nick Gandon, who heads up the Cricket Foundation’s ‘Chance to Shine’ project, which aims to return competitive cricket into state schools nationwide believes that progress is being made – in 2008, 1,686 primary and 396 secondary schools were involved in the project.
Source: Daily Telegraph