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Back from the ashes? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 5th July 2017

July 5, 2017
Ballard U13 girls cricket LIFE

Back from the ashes?

‘Last year, research by the England and Wales Cricket Board showed that schoolchildren were more likely to recognise American wrestlers than English cricketers. It’s as if cricket has been knocked clean out of the national consciousness’ (Simon Barnes writing in a recent Radio Times). It doesn’t seem that long ago when cricket was a central part of national life – like the Houses of Parliament and the Queen. In 2015 the England men’s team beat Australia in the Ashes (and in one match Australia scored only 60 runs with Stuart Broad taking 8 wickets for the loss of a mere 15 runs): sensational cricket! A year later Joe Root (R-o-o-t if you are part of the Test match crowd) became the world’s top-ranked batsman but neither he nor Broad made the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (and no cricketer has reached this pinnacle in the past 12 years whilst three cyclists have!). If you want to know a trivia answer for the next ‘pub quiz’, then the last cricketer to be named SPOTY was Andrew Flintoff in 2005 after England had won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.

 

By all accounts the number of people playing cricket regularly has halved in the past 20 years. I have certainly seen this happening in the schools I have been a part of in the UK in this time (my 9 years in India was, of course, somewhat different: the official ‘national sport’ in the sub-continent is Field Hockey but we all know this to be a fallacy). One of the main ‘culprits’ has been the public exam season which has stretched its reach beyond July and June and back into May and thus decimating the cricket season for all pupils over the age of 15 years. We just about manage an U16 fixture list at Ballard – and our proximity to the facilities at New Milton CC helps – but only by encouraging pupils to come back after their GCSEs and also by being inventive in our fixture list to include the annual matches against the staff. Another ‘culprit’ has been the loss of cricket from the BBC to the pay-to-view providers. Happily this trend is being reversed of late.

I was heartened, too, by the number of pupils who came to Ballard this week to hear a presentation by a cricketing legend: Sir Garfield Sobers. (Some readers may need to reach for their ‘phones at this point to learn that he was renowned as the best all-rounder of his time – perhaps all time – and played cricket for the West Indies between 1954 and 1974.) As part of our community involvement, we invited cricketers from local schools (and our own!) to hear Sir Garry. He enthralled the audience with his down-to-earth account of his life as one of 11 children who lived in poor surroundings in Bridgetown, Barbados. He could have played basketball or football (and was even offered a contract by Everton FC) but chose cricket as a way out of poverty and a means to travel the world ‘for free’! I can’t imagine that many all-round talented sports people choosing cricket over soccer today.

Sir Garry Sobers visits Ballard

Our deputy head David Dunn with Sir Garry Sobers

Sir Garry is promoting a school’s cricket festival back home in Barbados and what was especially of note in the audience here at school were the number of girls in attendance. We have girls’ cricket teams at Ballard now and the success of the current England women’s team (as well as the resurgence in the men’s national game) is, I hope, encouraging a new generation of young people into the original ‘beautiful game’. We now have T20 tournaments galore (and, yes, I do prefer the Test match variety but have grown to appreciate the shorter game, too) and as these feature more and more on TV so will interest grow.

There is something very special about ‘leather on willow’, the ridiculous names for field positions and different types of balls bowled, that I trust will enable cricket to endure and even to regain its place as a major summer sport in the UK (and, yes, as someone schooled in Scotland, I do mean the UK!).

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here

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