Cricket can make you a nicer person (but no one told Ricky Ponting)

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The Independent Online

It might not be obvious as the tension mounts ahead of Thursday's decisive Ashes Test, but cricket is still a civilising influence on the people that play it. It brings down racial barriers, helps re-connect previously marginalised pupils with education, and improves school discipline.

These are the findings of an evaluation by researchers at Loughborough University into StreetChance – a three-year project aimed at bringing cricket into disadvantaged communities.

The scheme has only been operating in 10 London boroughs and reached about 7,000 schoolchildren, two-thirds of whom are from ethnic minority groups. It will be extended to other communities next year including Birmingham and Dewsbury in West Yorkshire.

Wasim Khan, the first British-born Muslim to play county cricket, for Warwickshire, heads the programme. He said: "One of the key things is we want to get to the really difficult, deprived areas. In Dewsbury, we are setting it up in conjunction with West Yorkshire police and the local mosques."

Today's report says weekly StreetChance sessions have "provided a diversionary activity for youngsters and prevented them from 'hanging about' the streets or getting bored at home".

"In Southwark, the initiative has even initiated contact between communities from 'rival' estates and encouraged them to work together," it says.

In one case, the naughtiest boy from a class was given the role of captain and started showing immediate leadership qualities. Are there echoes of Ricky Ponting here, who was once banned from the Australian team after a fight in a Sydney nightclub?