Cricket: Top players 'should help schools game'

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST national survey of cricket clubs was published at Lord's yesterday, again emphasising the declining participation of schools in the national summer game.

The survey, a joint venture by the National Cricket Association and Sun Life of Canada, with support from the Lords' Taverners, questioned 7,000 cricket clubs. Of the 1,300 who replied, 97 per cent named the lack of cricket in schools as the main reason young people do not take up the sport.

Yet as various speakers, including Don Robson, chairman of the NCA, and Jonathan Agnew, the BBC cricket correspondent, pointed out, 40 per cent of clubs said that they were now involved in school cricket and 66 per cent now had a youth section. The growth of Kwik cricket has also affected the education system because it can be played on a flat surface anywhere and requires neither a pitch nor special equipment.

Robson added: 'For the first time we know exactly where the problem is and can identify our priorities. One of those we have spotted is that cricket- loving girls seem to be neglected.' Among other points raised in the survey was criticism of the level of municipal facilities: many clubs criticised councils for deliberately selling off sports grounds to developers.

Other clubs recommended more high-class coaching to compensate for the lack of teaching and coaching in schools, where pitches had now deteriorated to such an extent that it was difficult to play the game. More non- turf wickets were advocated.

Both Robson and Agnew pleaded for today's prominent players to take a greater part in encouraging schools cricket. Agnew said: 'Today's heroes have a responsibility as the role models for tomorrow.' Media coverage of cricket was also criticised - 'The publication of scores is not enough' - as was the inability of the national channels to broadcast the last World Cup. In their view, when international cricket becomes a monopoly of a minority, via satellite TV, cricket is turned into a minority interest.

Robson reported that 71 centres of excellence had been set up by this spring, and nine regional development officers appointed. The NCA wants to see Kwik cricket in more primary schools, but did point out that the NCA has launched and sustained national competitions at under-13, under-15 and under-16 levels.

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