London, May 25: Two great institutions of Britain, Lord’s and the Bank of England, descended on a school in the East End of London yesterday offering lessons in respect, fair play and how to lose gracefully.
In the hope that future generations may not have to do too much of the last, Mervyn King, the governor of the bank, formally unveiled Chance to Shine, a '50-million programme to bring cricket back to state schools and find the Flintoffs and Vaughans of the future.
King, who learned his love of cricket at state schools in Yorkshire and Wolverhampton, stressed that the scheme was aimed principally at bringing the benefits of cricket to the young rather than vice versa.
“Cricket teaches you how to win, how to lose and how to exercise leadership,” King said at Bethnal Green Technology College, where the appeal for financial support was begun. “Cricket offers all children the chance to shine. We want to explore not what schools can do for cricket but what cricket can do for schoolchildren.”
As well as King, the scheme has the backing of diverse supporters such as former England captains Mike Gatting and M.J.K. Smith, Tim Rice, the lyricist, Lord Swraj Paul, the industrialist, and Bill Morris, the former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
With the governor bringing his influence to bear on the government (not to mention having a key to where all the cash is kept), the organisers are hoping the government will match pound for pound their target of '25 million in donations to the project.
More than '4 million has already been raised.
It is all the idea of Duncan Fearnley, the bat manufacturer and erstwhile chairman of Worcestershire CCC, and Mark Nicholas, former player, television commentator and cricket columnist of The Daily Telegraph.
Nicholas said: “The Chance to Shine logo is a red apple with the seam of a cricket ball wrapped around it. This signifies social and physical health as promoted by the game and fits nicely into the Prime Minister’s recent preaching on decency and respect among young people. Cricket is the ultimate team game, which demands both individual and collective responsibility.”
They were at the school, one of the pilots of the new programme, to see young players train under the eyes of Steve Harmison of Durham and Matthew Hoggard of Yorkshire, neither of whom played much cricket at their own schools.
Hoggard said: “I was lucky: my school hardly played cricket but my dad took me to Pudsey Congs Cricket Club. This is really important because without cricket in schools too many youngsters will be less lucky than I was. They’ll be lost to the game.”