CRICKET: HOW THE GAME FARES BELOW COUNTY LEVEL

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The Independent Online
PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Time and facilities remain hurdles to overcome but Kwik Cricket is developing all the time. Over 40 thousand kits are now in circulation, over 5,000 schools entered the Wrigley Schools Cricket Tournament last year and the ECB's Kwik Cricket Road Show drew 20,000 visitors last year. Proposed changes to the National Curriculum are also encouraging with physical education back on the agenda.

SECONDARY SCHOOLS

The Development Game will be hoping to do for secondary schools what Kwik Cricket has achieved in primary schools. An eight-a-side game, it is seen as the natural progression, using a hard ball and coloured clothing. Capital Kids Cricket, a volunteer organisation funded by the Lord's Taverners among others, has already done much good work at primary school level and this summer became involved at secondary level, encouraging cricket coaching at 240 schools in London.

HIGHER EDUCATION

A pounds 300,000 scheme establishing six Centres of Cricketing Excellence begins next year. They will be aimed at male students with the potential to play first-class cricket and women who have played to senior County level. The six centres are Bradford-Leeds, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Loughborough and Oxford. Each will be staffed by an ECB-qualified coach, take part in a two-day championship and play three matches against county opposition.

CLUB CRICKET

Ten Premier Leagues form the apex of the new national pyramid structure, playing 60 overs a side with a possible move to two-day matches in the pipeline. The new leagues are designed, so they say, to achieve a "quantum leap in the standard of the top tier of club cricket and to bridge the gap between recreational and first-class cricket". It may be some time before everyone, including the "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" brigade of older club cricketers, is completely happy with the plans.

ETHNIC MINORITIES

A full report from the ECB's Racism Study Group, working in conjunction with the Commission for Racial Equality, is expected soon. In the meantime it is hoped that an anti-racism poster will get the message through to around 20,000 clubs this summer and ECB staff themselves are all undergoing training. One notable initiative is a joint effort from the ECB, Middlesex CCC, Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils, which has created a new junior cricket club at London's Victoria Park whose president is Mike Gatting, and which will be recruiting youngsters from the local Asian and Afro- Caribbean communities.

FACILITIES

Improving playing surfaces remains the biggest single headache at all levels, along with security of tenure for the clubs. Otherwise the facilities are there but need Government investment and the will for all sports to work together so that surfaces such as basketball courts and Astro-turf hockey pitches are also seen as potential cricket playing areas.

WOMEN'S CRICKET

The merger of the old Women's Cricket Association with the ECB has produced an exhaustive development plan for the women's game, led by the England international Barbara Daniels. The need to develop more accessible and less time-consuming versions of the game is seen as paramount, along with raising the profile and establishing a more positive image for women's cricket.

SPECIAL NEEDS

Thirty-five teams entered the Inaugural World Cup Table Cricket tournament, with the final at Lord's earlier in the summer. It is aimed at children with severe physical disabilities and run by the Youth Sport Trust and the ECB with funding from Camelot at a cost of pounds 800,000 over three years. This is a six-a-side game played on a table tennis top with nine sliding fielders, plastic balls, a ball launcher and wooden bats. The Crick-e- Tec coaching aids should also be of considerable benefit.

COACHING

"Over the last 25 years, 30,000 coaches have qualified, but what we haven't been doing is equipping coaches working at different levels with the skills they need for those particular levels," says Hugh Morris. A new five-level programme attempts to match the right coach with the right level. The NatWest Development of Excellence Scheme, which helped Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain, remains in place and its England Under-19 team are world champions.

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