Lord's Diary: Nine out of 11 in various states - but figures don't add up

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The Independent Online

To the uninitiated it might have appeared a contradiction. No sooner had a £50m project been launched to promote the playing of cricket in state schools than nine former state school pupils were walking out at Lord's to play in a Test match for England.

To the uninitiated it might have appeared a contradiction. No sooner had a £50m project been launched to promote the playing of cricket in state schools than nine former state school pupils were walking out at Lord's to play in a Test match for England.

The odd men out were Geraint Jones, who was brought up and schooled in Australia, which does not count, and Andrew Strauss, who went to Radley. Strauss is regularly made to pay for this privilege by the merciless ribbing from colleagues and by being called Lord Brocket, which goes only to demonstrate that former state school old boys have no taste in nicknames.

So, if state schools are throwing up so many cricketers there would seem little point in throwing £50m in their direction. But there is the rub. Of the nonet, none could be said truly to have been introduced to the game at school.

None played more than five games a summer at school, whereas five had fathers who played club cricket and one, Simon Jones, a father, Jeff, who played Tests. Matthew Hoggard says his father is a cricket badger, Gareth Batty's dad George coaches at the Yorkshire Academy. In every case, save that of Strauss, they learned their cricket at clubs and from family.

This is why the new project, Chance To Shine, will depend so heavily on clubs to succeed. "Yes, clubs are vital to this but think how many potential cricketers we are missing because the game is no longer played in schools," said the director of Chance To Shine, Nick Gandon.

Rhine maiden overs

For some bizarre reason best known to themselves mainland European nations have never taken to cricket in a big way. It may therefore be a surprise that Germany are responsible for substantially funding international cricket in this country.

Indeed it could be the Rheinisch-Westfalisches Elektrizitatswerk Aktiengesselschaff Test Series, which has a certain ring to it. RWE are the parent company of the British firm, npower, who recently extended their sponsorship of England matches to 2007. RWE was founded in 1898 to provide electricity to the people of the east Rhine. Its main sporting connection was with Bayer Leverkusen FC. How long before the England and Wales Cricket Board move to Essen?

Ball by ballpoint commentary

The goings-on at Lord's - and the organisation of matches at the world's best ground demands a lot of goings-on - are being chronicled two-fold this year. The Diary's magnificent colleague, Stephen Fay, an MCC member, is writing a life in the year of Lord's and the artist Karen Neale is covering the action in pictures. Neale, who is not an MCC member but who has been given, she says, a tremendous reception, is bringing something unique. It is not that she knows nothing of cricket - that applies to some cricket writers - but that all her work is done with a Bic ballpoint. Her original work is done in an artist's sketchbook and then transferred to water colour paper. But all of it is drawn with those black ink pens. It seems unfair that the company are not remotely interested in supplying her with her pens.

A good walk spoiled

Former England captain Mike Gatting faces two imminent challenges. First, he is being asked to judge the entries in a competition being run by npower at the Second Test in Chester-le-Street next week. Restaurants in the North-east have been asked to design a special curry to mark Bangladesh's Test tour of England.

Secondly, Gatting is leading the 1,000-mile, 38-day Ashes Walk to raise funds for the Chance To Shine project. It starts on 13 June. Gatt, a man renowned for his appetite - which does not look to have diminished since his playing days - was adamant which task he would prefer. "The walking," he said. "I don't much like hot curries."

Boycotting of Fletcher

An unexpected record was set during the First Test between England and Bangladesh. No fewer than nine former England captains were engaged to broadcast on the match. They were, in chronological order of the first time they led England: Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, David Gower, Gatting, Graham Gooch, Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart (the latest addition for the recently resigned Dermot Reeve) and Nasser Hussain. Poor old Keith Fletcher, who was in the middle of that lot, must wonder what he did wrong not to get a commentating gig.

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