What happened to state school cricket? – Inner-city cricket: the state of play

Nine of the 12 players used during the
2005 Ashes came from state schools. However, since Paul Collingwood retired in 2011, no
English batsman from a state school has held down a regular spot in the national team. The numbers jar considering only 7% of British children
are privately educated. Is there a problem getting state school cricketers through the
system? We’re in Wythenshawe in South Manchester to
meet Tracy. Now, Tracy is the Youth Development Officer here at Wythenshawe Cricket Club. How many junior teams do you have? Well, at the moment our junior teams have
depleted somewhat, and I think that’s a bit of a national problem, especially in kind
of areas like ours. How much so? Five to six years ago there was 150 kids on this field, that was under-9s, under-11s, under-12s, 13s right the way through
to under-18s. You can see for yourself how those numbers have dropped. What do you think cricket would offer the
community then? We’re about mixing together, we’re a cohesive
club. We want people to learn and get on with each other. If you don’t, you know, this is
a microcosm of the world. You’re on the cricket field, you’re playing with people from all
different cultures, different backgrounds, social statuses, but everybody’s the same
out there. You get a wicket, you’re out. What is the future here at Wythenshawe Cricket
Club then? The future, at the moment… I hold my hand
on my heart and I think we’ve got a good future. I’m always an optimist. We’ve got the all-stars
coming through, the little ones are coming through. Get that into their heads: cricket’s
a really fun sport. I think we need to really get the links back with the schools. If we
don’t get those links we’re losing the potential to continue cricket in Wythenshawe and South
Manchester because these girls and boys are the seniors at the future. Otherwise, you
know what’s going to happen to cricket in 25 years time when all these have grown up
and gone to do something different. We need to retain them and I think the future’s bright,
I really do. I always will. I’ll be an optimist till the day I die. At the end of the day
we need to get the cricket back here, properly. I guess I started cricket when I went to my
grandad’s, because he used to put the cricket on, and I got into it and then I asked my
parents if I could join a club with them. How much cricket do you watch, now that’s
only on Sky? I don’t really know, because I only watch
it at my grandad’s, and I only go to my grandad’s twice a year. One of the schemes to address the decline
in state school representation is hubs like this one in Hull. Since 2011 the Marylebone
Cricket Club Foundation have offered free and focused coaching exclusively to cricketers
from state schools. There are currently 54 active hubs across the UK. Closer. You’ve got to be closer. Stay low! As a child myself, I was very lucky to play
a very high standard of cricket and I never had anything like this. I genuinely believe
that if we had something like this when I was about, when I was younger, the success
that I had would have not just been me, but many other people as well. When I was playing,
especially when I was at Yorkshire, I think about 80% of the team came from privately-educated
schools, which is wonderful and fine but they have access to those facilities all of the
time. Players like myself from Hull, I mean being a Hull lad myself, we didn’t have access
to those facilities. We used to turn up to games and we’d have no kit, you know we’re
all sharing from the same bag, things like that. For us that’s things that are still
happening in Hull now. We do have the distinction as well that there’s a lot of poverty and
socio-economic problems. These guys now, they are part of a community. They’re a part of
a group of boys and girls who’ve had an opportunity and that opportunity has led to them making
friends as well. It’s not just a case of ‘oh come and play some cricket and we’ll see what
we can do’, it’s more than that. So the kids that we see in front of us here
today – they’re all from state schools? Yes they are, yeah. The MCC Foundation had
the priority of giving free coaching to state school kids, so all of the kids that we see
here today, all of the hundred-plus that we have in the winter are all state-schoolchildren.
We’re not just attracting people from the local area, we’re attracting people from slightly
further afield because they need that free coaching, it’s a benefit to them and they’ve
really developed. We’ve got some kids here today who’ve gone on to do much higher things
than what we ever thought was believable from this. Is that your go-to, then? It’s normally just like a good length really. How have these sessions helped with your skill,
because it seems like you know from Matty you’re getting really good coaching.. Yeah, he’s giving me advice like, to take
into my games and it’s improving with my stats – they’ve improved over the past few years,
so it’s really good. Where do you think you’d be if you didn’t
have a scheme like this? I don’t think I’d be at the standard I do
play at, because it helps me a lot. It’s just the coaching and things, just being around
other people that.. everybody helps each other. In October 2016 Durham were relegated to Division
Two and docked 48 points for the following season after falling into debt and almost
going out of business. Well they now operate on a tighter budget, with some high-profile
departures, it means they musta place greater emphasis on nurturing talent from the local
area – something which they have long excelled at. Neil Killeen, who is in charge of Durham’s second team, is a key part of that. I suppose after what’s happened in the last
couple of years with Durham, you’re having to rely on those young players a bit more
now? That was a huge blow for us as a club, what
happened with with the sanctions that we were put under and I think initially you sort of
think ‘well we’re gonna struggle a little bit’, but if you look at it from the other
side of things, it becomes a huge opportunity for some of the younger players. With regards to the Durham Academy how many
of those players, let’s say a percentage off the top of your head, would be from working-class
or state-school backgrounds? I think there would be quite a high percentage
to be honest. We don’t have the volume of private schools that they do in other parts
of the country and I also think that because of the strength of club cricket up in the
North East that players kind of come from that as well as schools. My son’s involved
in the system, he goes to a comprehensive school nearby and they play very little cricket
they play. I think they compete in one competition and they don’t really do any cricket during
school time whatsoever and that was the same as when I came through: we did no cricket
whatsoever in school. I got into cricket by somebody saw me throwing a cricket ball in
a Sports Day competition. Should cricket be in state schools? Do you
reckon it would make a difference up here? Nah, I don’t think so. Just because club
cricket is so strong, so driven and everyone wants to win, I think if we had more teams
from schools and stuff like that, then the younger lads aren’t going to be able to
play with men, and that’s where you learn the most I think, when you play club cricket
with men. The more experiences and knowledge and how to work things out when you play with
them, that’s when you really mature as a cricketer I think. It’s been fascinating for me, speaking to
the guys here about club cricket in Durham. They really seem to be of the opinion that
if cricket were to move into state schools, they’ll be pulling players in so many different
directions that it’ll actually dilute the quality that’s coming through.

1 thought on “What happened to state school cricket? – Inner-city cricket: the state of play

  1. This is the one of the four scenarios which has affected me most. Living in the south-east and going to state school I know the difference between state school cricket and public school. At the age of 13, 14 years ago, I played junior club cricket with a small group of 12 or 13 boys. Of the regular players, 9 went to public school – trained at school twice a week, played 30 over games on a Saturday and received coaching from a former county pro who was employed to teach cricket full time. Meanwhile at my state school cricket was run on a voluntary basis by PE teachers or even my English teacher and within PE we played cricket perhaps 4 times a year. The disparity between the two was stark. For me club colts cricket was several levels above the cricket I encountered at school. For the public school boys several level below as they travelled further to play their games against a higher standard of opposition.

    In the end I have probably played a higher standard – albeit for half a season only – than all but one of the public school boys who played Surrey age group level. When i look at my local club now the best teams are dominated by public school boys more than ever. Despite having a state school with 2,000 pupils on it's doorstep almost without exception the 14-17 who play club cricket have come from public school. I would love to know how my old school treats cricket these days.

    Also my Dad grew up in Middlesbrough and his former club plays in the North Yorkshire-South Durham league and I can absolutely see how clubs in the North East or Yorkshire do not need public school boys. The ethic is a bit different "if you are good enough, you're old enough" and the young players will play at a standard that pushes them. More so than my club where colts are used to fill out lower sides and play a lower standard on worse pitches as a result.

    I don't claim to have any answers from my experience but I fear that cricket in the South Ease – especially Surrey is becoming more and more elitist as a result of the disparity at school level.

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