1st Mar, 2021

Cricketing fun shouldn't be kept private says Sir Geoffrey Boycott

Liam Moakes 9th Feb, 2021 Updated: 9th Feb, 2021

CRICKETING great Sir Geoffrey Boycott has called on world cricket’s power-makers to instil a sense of fun in an effort to reacquaint his beloved sport with the masses.

Speaking to https://www.cricketbetindia.com, Sir Geoffrey discussed the recent Educating Cricket Study in which Cricket Bet India’s research showed around 63 per cent of international cricketers to play a Test Match for the ‘Big Three’ of England, Australia and India in 2020 were brought up through private education before playing for their countries.

The former England great says it is “a shame” to see so few international cricketers coming through the state school system and believes an obsession with coaching and technique is harming the next generation.

This, coupled with a lack of proactivity from county set-ups has, in his eyes, held the sport back for too long.

The study looked at the backgrounds of each Test cricketer from England, Australia, India and South Africa to look at the number of privately-educated players in each side and compares the figures to other major sports in the UK.

In the interview, which can be read in full at https://www.cricketbetindia.com/news/sir-geoffrey-boycott-speaks-to-cricket-bet-india, Boycott addresses the state of cricket in schools, the sterling effort of private schools, his school days, finding and being mentored by Johnny Lawrence, the art of coaching and practice and cricket’s fun factor.

The Fitzwilliam-born 80-year-old was speaking after Cricket Bet India’s Educating Cricket Report showed a remarkable 62.5 per cent of the England Test side were privately educated. In India and South Africa, that number soared to 81.8 per cent and 78.6 per cent respectively, while intriguingly just 40 per cent of the Australian side were privately schooled.

With ECB National Selector Ed Smith openly conceding that ‘you are 20 times more likely to go on and play for England if you go to private school rather than state school’, this new report further evidences the national set-up’s over-reliance on the former, when it comes to maintaining a conveyor belt of talent – a steady stream of cricketers prepared exclusively for the rigours of life in the England Test fold.

Just 37.5 per cent, or six, of the players to play Test cricket for England in 2020 were educated in state schools. They are Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.

However, should a lack of cricket activation and accessibility in the state education system give cause for concern?

“The amount of people playing and coaching at schools has just shrunk,” Boycott exclusively told Cricket Bet India. “It is such a shame.

“Cricket will continue to struggle. It has gone quite far down the track. Too far? I’m not sure. Less schools are playing and, as a result, less kids are coming through.

“Children should be playing cricket at school and loving it. Both the ECB and the counties should be taking cricket to schools – all schools – the game depends on kids playing and developing a love for it.”

Boycott, whose name is etched in cricketing history, was the mainstay in the English batting line-up for more than a decade and famously scored his 100th Test Match century against rivals Australia at his home ground Headingley in 1977.

It all stemmed from one thing – his love of the game – something he developed aged five, in a playground on a T-junction just yards from the family home in Fitzwilliam. He represented his local primary school in a nationwide competition, before eventually finding his way to Johnny Lawrence’s cricket school in Rothwell.

His penchant for bat on ball, perfect practice and time spent under the tutelage of Lawrence were retained throughout his playing days.

He added: “Many people said my technique was excellent and I prided myself on it, but at the same time I have retained the fun, enjoyment, ‘can’t wait to play’ element all my life.

“When I finished at 46, I still loved it. I used to get asked by guys in their late thirties or forties if I still loved it and I used to say ‘no, I love it’. If you can start that when you are a youngster and retain that – brilliant!

“If you can do that, then your coach has done a fantastic job on you.”

Boycott failed the 11-plus at Fitzwilliam, attended Kinsley Secondary Modern for a short while, but ended up passing the entrance exam for Hemsworth Grammar, where his fledgling love affair with the game continued to flourish. Heads were beginning to turn in his direction.

Despite a long and distinguished playing career, he never forgets his roots – those delicate days when the foundations were laid and the time given up by teaching staff to further his cricketing education.

“My primary school, when I was about nine-and-a-half,” he chirped, when asked about his school days.

“Mr Weaver and Mr Andrews, they taught all sorts, but they had us out after school. They didn’t have to, but they did. They devoted a lot of their time to us.

“What they created was an environment where there wasn’t too much technical knowledge being passed on, but you want to get people involved and enjoying it.

“The most important thing is that kids should enjoy it. It seems as though enthusiasm for cricket in schools is disappearing, which is sad. Largely that is down to time and Mr Weaver and Mr Andrews were prepared to give theirs up.

“Although you can pass on some helpful hints and they undoubtedly did, essentially they gave us a passion and enjoyment for cricket and we looked forward to it man!”

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