The Lord's missionaries spread the word - fun

First shoots show of £50m scheme to replant the game in state schools

With a huge grin that displayed a forest of teeth, Eaton Gordon threw the ball towards a lean 10-year-old girl called Rona. She followed it all the way and caught it neatly in her midriff with an élan that - on recent evidence - most England slip fielders could only yearn for.

Neither pausing for breath nor letting the smile slip, Eaton went round the whole group, firing tennis balls at them as though they were coming from cannons. He demonstrated a bowling action to them and he then went over to a larger group, split it into two teams and had their members hitting balls and running. Some of them hit it straight and a long way, some of them barely made contact. To a girl and a boy they all laughed - yes, even the fat kid at the back couldn't help it - because it was fun.

This was Chance To Shine in action last week at the James Watt Primary School in Handsworth, Birmingham. It is the ambitious project aimed at reviving cricket in state schools, a task that by and large requires the skills of resurrection rather than life support.

Its objective, seen as fanciful in some quarters, is to raise and spend £50 million over 10 years either to rejuvenate or reintroduce cricket in a third of English (and Welsh) state schools, some 6,000, by 2015. Launched a year ago, this is the summer when we will begin to know whether the initiative has legs.

"We were a horse without form last May," said Nick Gandon, director of the Cricket Foundation, the charitable but autonomous arm of the England and Wales Cricket Board, under whose auspices Chance To Shine operates. "But now we are a few furlongs into the race and travelling well."

The project is an example of how cricket clubs and schools can combine forces. It could not exist without clubs, who provide the coaches, but its reach is much wider. It is clearly doing something right. Of the 350 ECB focus clubs - all of whom have met certain standards - 250 applied to be part of Chance To Shine this year. Of those 100 were chosen and another 100 will be next year. Having been picked the clubs in turn choose the schools, who are then guaranteed four hours cricket coaching a week for 15 weeks. It provides a base of continuity and constancy for cricket in state schools which has not existed for a quarter of a century.

"There is something messianic about it," Gandon said. "To some extent we are looking to effect a culture change which goes beyond cricket and spreads into the significance of team sports and what they can do for everyone. The coaches are instrumental in achieving this."

Eaton Gordon perhaps embodies the type of coach they might be looking for, possessed of technical nous but with an ability and desire to transmit the joy of the game. Gordon said: "I had coached at clubs before but in schools it's different. You are talking to kids who may not want to be there and do not have much idea of cricket. But you want to give something to them all."

Of the £50m which the project has budgeted for over 10 years, it has now raised £9m from donors and another £2m from the Government via the Sport Foundation. It intends to raise another £16m of its own which the Government should match pound for pound.

Gandon and the project's cricket operations director, Wasim Khan, both have a missionary zeal about them. Khan, who is based at Edgbaston and learned his own cricket in Birmingham, is adamant that cricket can be part of young people's daily lives again.

The barely suppressed desire is to get cricket being played again in city schools. Hands-worth embodies that. Cricket will not have it easy. In last week's group at James Watt there was an 11-year-old called Kingsley who hit straight and long and bowled straight and fast, a natural athlete. He said he enjoyed cricket and Eaton's way with it, but that his favourite sport was still football. Eaton is working on it.

If the coaches are vital, so are the teachers. It is as though at James Watt all the ingredients have come together. Helen James, the head teacher, was as energised as could be by the regular advent of cricket and its ability to teach values beyond the mere technical.

Some clubs, who have large colts sections already, might have felt cynical about this project but they are being won over. "Some of the pre-existing schemes have not endured," said Gandon. "This will because it is specifically long term."

The early indications look good. It can work given the money and if it never produces an England cricketer (though they should look out for Kingsley) it does not matter. Eaton Gordon's smile is worth turning up for.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes