Do you need to be posh to play cricket?
If you want to play test cricket, it helps to be posh. Who else can afford to take the better part of a week off work just to play a game? Or at least that’s the way the the adage goes, but is it myth or reality?
The 13-strong men’s Ashes squad taking on the Aussies tomorrow contains seven state-educated players, just over 50 per cent, yet the proportion of children in state education – 93 per cent.
Compare those figures to the Ashes-winning squad of 2005 – the Freddie Flintoff era. Then, England retained the urn with just five state-educated players, fewer than 50 per cent, so on the face of it the stats are heading in the right direction.
But in 2010 chance to shine – a leading cricket charity – discovered that only a third of state schools teach or compete in cricket, and since then, no-one has measured what – if anything – has changed. So is cricket – at the elite end, at least – getting more inclusive? The truth is we just don’t know.
There are many reasons: resources, facilities, the sell-off of school playing fields, the cultural dominance of football, and the decline of free to air sport on TV.
But on the flip side, there has been an explosion of cricket outreach programmes over the last decade, run by the likes of chance to shine, the MCC, and indeed county cricket clubs.
Thousands of state schools have been involved, and hundreds of thousands of state schoolchildren have been taught new forms of the game that are easily played in crowded urban environments. There’s been a particular focus on attracting girls to the nation’s (supposedly) favourite summer sport. But to what end?
Chance to shine are soon to embark on a new study to assess cricket in our state schools, which may provide the impetus to tackle another set of figures – grassroots participation. They make for grim reading – like many team sports, they are down.
It doesn’t take a public policy expert to tell you this has bad implications for public health. So much for our Olympic legacy.
But then there are also the stats that will garner the most attention – but to those public policy experts, arguably matter least – five tests, seven weeks, the Ashes, and beating Australia. A rivalry that transcends even England’s infamous social hierarchies. The 2015 series starts tomorrow.
So do you need to be posh to play test cricket? There are many who might well ask: “Does it really matter?”
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