Thursday, 4 July 2013

Youth cricket in Cambridge - A structured middle class affair.

By Girish Menon

Rob Steen in his article, Ravi Bopara and the cultural conundrum,  raises an important question when he asks, "Why does Britain still await its first batting star of Asian stock ?". In this article I will attempt to answer Rob's questions based on my observations in Cambridge.

In Cambridge, where I live, children's cricket is a formally structured activity. A child has to be enrolled in a cricket club early; he goes for training once a week, mostly in a net, and he plays in a 15/20 over match against another club on a weekday evening. There are few spontaneous games of cricket played by kids using rubber balls and plain bats unlike in the maidans of the Indian subcontinent. Those parents who have cricketing ambitions for their children double up as manager of the club team which gives their kids an unfair developmental advantage. These parents also employ certified coaches to ensure that their child has a further edge as he climbs up the cricket hierarchy. The parent's aim is to get their child into the county team at the earliest age possible because this confers the advantage of opportunity and incumbency to their child. Also, as discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in 'Outliers', those children born at the start of the school year and whose parents know the workings of the system have a greater likelihood than the latter borns of unaware parents. To add to this inequity, there is no cricket played in most of the comprehensive schools in the county. Thus cricket has become an additional academic subject for the children of upper middle class parents. The absence of cricket on terrestrial TV further accentuates the problem, as children with no access to SKY TV are not exposed to real time live cricket and its heroes. The popularity of IPL among some schoolchildren shows that the ECB is focussed on short term monetary gains while sacrificing the need to foster a large cricket playing talent pool.

Children of upper class Asian parents seem to be very clued up on the workings of the system and their children have lead roles in most club teams. But children of less well off parents (non Asians included), who may be unaware of the system's working become a cropper in this cricket structure. Hiring a coach is another handicap for a less well off kid, since the coach often doubles up as a selector and coaches have their own networks which exclude non coached children. This may even explain why a Wasim Akram or a Dhoni will never make it through the English system.

So in Cambridge at least the problem with the cricket set up is that it may never produce any cricketer with flair. The selection of players who progress through the hierarchical structures is biased towards upper middle class kids who have been coached to play cricket. In the absence of a large cricket playing talent pool which represents all economic sections living here, the youth playing cricket in Cambridge today can only become journeymen cricketers. Their cricketing style comes from a mould and lacks individuality, which is the hallmark of any superstar.

Thus Rob Steen's cry will remain in the wilderness until such time England chooses from a wider talent pool and breaks with the parent-coach nexus in youth cricket.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for your great is informative post for cricket.This post give me more new information about us of cricket.i like this post.