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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Valerie Trierweiler’s book paints Hollande as a cold-hearted hypocrite
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
filmsMockingjay Part 1 taking hit franchise to new levels
Life and Style
techSweet Peach says scent 'shows more important things are working'
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
i100
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

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible