Why Play Cricket ... ?


Martin Toms and Scott Fleming, Chelsea School Research Centre, University of Brighton


A Preliminary Analysis of Participation by Young Males


For almost a decade there has been considerable debate and discussion about the roles and relative importance of school-based and club-based cricket in the development of elite young male cricketers; 4 and state schools have often been accused of failing to provide Britain's youth with an adequate introduction to the fundamentals of the game.5 The recent Political intervention into debates about the place of team games in the schooling of young people has further fanned the flames, and in spite of the success of the England women's team, cricket is now, once again, in the spotlight. Indeed, so much so, that cricket has been identified by the Sports Council as a 'focus sport'.6

Midst the rhetoric of a minor moral panic, the discourse has often failed to acknowledge the absence of detailed and in-depth research about young people's participation and non-participation in cricket. Yet provision for cricket, and participation in it by young people are inextricably linked to school-based sport, for it is often through physical education (PE), extra-curricular sport and informal play that youthful experiences of sport are introduced, consolidated and re-affirmed. The schooling of young people during the 'skill hungry years' of eight to fourteen is of particular importance,7 and the transition from primary to secondary education also presents a critical point in the development of sporting interests and an active lifestyle.8

In view of the significance of the experiences of school-based sport for Britain's youth, and in view also of some of the accusations levelled at the state secondary PE provision of cricket, it is interesting to note that in a survey of secondary headteachers, the vast majority (93%), three-quarters of whom were from the state sector, indicated that cricket was played at their school.9 It may be then, that whilst cricket still features as part of the PE curriculum and extra-curricular programme in many state secondary schools, voluntary participation is perhaps not as buoyant amongst young people generally, nor the quality of elite level performance as high, as it had been prior to the implementation of the wide-ranging set of PE experiences that now characterise the broad and balanced National Curriculum in PE.10

The reasons for the patterns of participation and non-participation in cricket are complex and numerous. Research in sport and leisure studies has helped to develop a substantive body of evidence that points to a set of inter-related factors that impact on the participation patterns of young people. Both Ken Roberts11 and John Hargreaves12 have identified the three primary influences as being social class, gender and ethnicity - and they each elaborate on these very persuasively, and in some detail. These factors therefore form the main constructs of the analytical framework that might assist in the understanding of sports participation and leisure lifestyles generally.

In addition to these, though, there are other socialisation factors that have also been identified for the specific impact that they have on young people:13 family involvement, school attended, peer group influences,14 the power of the media,15 and the leisure promotion industries.16 With specific regard to cricket, there is further evidence to indicate the importance of geographical location,17 access to facilities and also the image of the game.18 Together, these factors formed the basis upon which the research was planned and developed; in this paper, some preliminary findings are presented from the qualitative element of an on-going ethnographic study that is examining the role of cricket in the lifestyles and schooling of young males,19 and to identify the factors that affect participation.

Researching Cricket Participation Patterns

Research into participation in sport and active recreation by young people has often been inconculsive,20 as the underlying reasons are typically very difficult to penetrate.21 Thus the identification of the key factors that influence participation and non-participation in cricket necessarily requires an in-depth method of investigation to provide valid and trust-worthy information. In the well established case-study paradigm in the sociology of education22 and leisure studies,23 a prolonged period of intense fieldwork was undertaken at Ingram High School. However, as Colin Lacey24 explains of his own case study, the findings are: 'not confined to the particularistic concerns of one school... [but extend] to general problems in sociology and education'. Hence, a detailed knowledge derived from this specific situation increases the understanding of other such situations, and helps to inform wider debates.

Like other ethnographic studies concerned with exploratory work,25 a variety of data collection techniques have been employed: participant observation, semi-structured and unstructured interviewing, large-scale questionnaire survey, and other documentary evidence. These have provided both a full contextualisation for the research, as well as the data that contain the expression of the views, opinions and attitudes of the young males at Ingram H.S. concerning their patterns of participation in cricket.

In an early phase of the fieldwork, the entire school population completed a questionnaire that gathered factual information and some indication of general attitudes towards cricket. Based on these data, interview informants were selected to broadly reflect the demographic trends of the school's population, and other factors associated with cricket participation. That is to say, both those who were positively disposed towards cricket, and those who were less favourable in their views, opinions and attitudes were sought. In total, approximately fifty interviews have been conducted.

Cricket at Ingram High School: the Context

Ingram High School is a medium-sized, multi-ethnic, secondary comprehensive school located in the southern part of inner London; and has an all male population of approximately 500 students from ages 11 to 16. Resources and facilities for some sporting activities are somewhat limited, but there is considerable goodwill towards sport in general, and cricket in particular. Various members of the teaching staff are positively motivated towards the game, and teams have achieved some considerable success in local, regional and even national competitions. As the Head of the PE Department, Dave Robinson, explained:

By channelling all their talent and natural aggression and enthusiasm with the help of staff, then we can generate some good teams and some good performances. Other schools don't have as helpful a staff in general and we're very lucky in that respect

Cricket is a popular activity amongst some of the students at the school, and takes up the major part of the available playground space for informal games during break-times during the summer. Unsurprisingly though, cricket is not the preferred playground activity of all the students, football and 'patball'26 are also played. A little more surprising is the tendency for many of the young people who play cricket not to engage in the other games.

The cricket teams at Ingram H.S. present an interesting commentary on the ethnicity-education-sport social dynamics, and there is a significant over-representation of young people of South Asian origin in them. Dave Robinson pointed out that:

The cricket team tends to be dominated by the Asian boys ... they seem to place more emphasis on cricket than perhaps other sports, and they're very keen and enthusiastic.

There is even a suggestion that different cultural groups have different roles within the teams, as some of the pupils themselves acknowledge. As sixteen year old Keith, remarked:

Mainly in my year in this school the White boys are the batsmen and the 'Pakis' the bowlers. It was quite an effective team - I mean we were runners up in the Croydon Cup and we lost by fifteen runs.

The main point, though, is that cricket benefits from the climate of general support that pervades in the school; and despite the inadequacy of the facilities for cricket, the school has produced successful multi-ethnic teams.

Cricket at Ingram High School: the factors Identified

The limited research evidence dealing specifically with cricket that does exist, in conjunction with the wider issues associated with youth and sports participation (outlined above), have enabled tentative 'hypotheses' to be investigated. The main findings are presented graphically in Figure 1., and are then discussed in detail with the young people at Ingram H.S. elaborating upon the main points by expressing their views and opinions in their own words.27

Family Influence

The singular importance of the family in the socialisation process is unarguable, and the effect of the family in shaping patterns of participation in sporting activities has been well documented.28 What is less clear, however, is the mechanism by which such an effect occurs. That is, a causal link has been established, but the means by which it operates has not yet been adequately explained.

The students of Ingram H.S. helped to confirm the importance of the family as a key factor in participation trends;29 and their own remarks begin to help clarify the cause and effect. There are three distinct elements to the discussion of family influence: involvement; technique; and inspiration.


The importance of tradition operates on (at least) two levels. First, there is the general recognition of cricket as being a suitable and appropriate activity in which to take part. The clear links here with ethnicity are unmistakeable, for it is very clear that particular ethnic groups are aware of a cultural history in the game. Some of the young people of South Asian origin are particularly sensitised to this:

'Cos it's the culture isn't it - plus we're the champions. (Abdul,15)

The assertion of ethnic pride through sport is not new,30 but at Ingram High School some informal and fairly vague demarcation lines concerning the sport-ethnicity relation seem to have been drawn:

Cricket's an Asian game, football's a White game and basketball's a Black game. That's the way it is. (Asif, 13)

This is not intended to imply that the only participants in the playground games of cricket are the young people of South Asian origin, but it is they who begin to express their traditional national identity through cricket:

If you go to Pakistan you see all the children playing cricket always, I'm not sure why. They're really good players over there. (Mohammed,13)

Moreover, there is evidence of some aspects of stereotyping beginning to emerge in Mohammed's comment. There are very real dangers associated with ethnic stereotyping,31 but its prevalence is not entirely surprising. When young people from a particular ethnic group are constantly having sporting role-models from their own ethnic group consolidated and reinforced, it is inevitable that they begin to reach stereotyped conclusions about participation in that sport. As Ellis Cashmore32 succinctly explains: 'They begin to swallow the myths themselves - and it's not surprising.

Tradition is only a partial explanation for this participation in cricket by the South Asians at Ingram H.S. For if tradition was the only factor, it would be reasonable to expect equal participation in cricket by Caribbean and White-British youth. Sixteen-year old Keith helps to make the situation a little clearer as he hints at the wider sporting interests of some of the other ethnic groups:

Within the school [cricket team] the Indians an' 'Paki's' play - the white kids are more the football players - we've got in our thirteen man squad for cricket - six or seven Paki's and Indians. I don't think the blacks are really interested in it - it's not fast enough for them 'cos they're into basketball and things like that, I don't think cricket is their top sport.

This suggestion that there is something about the actual game of cricket that affects participation is a theme to which the discussion will return in a later section.

The second level at which tradition operates has a more direct and quantifiable impact on some of the students of Ingram H.S. As Spreitzer and Snyder33 discovered:

Parents (especially the father) who are interested in sports tend to encourage their offspring to participate in sports, which markedly increases the likelihood of a youth's participation in sports.

In the specific case of cricket, the significance of parental involvement is especially important:

I suppose I wouldn't have taken it up if he [my father] didn't like it. (Richard, 16)

In addition though, the influence may be from other male family members:

I wanted to try it out [the local colts side] with my brother, I thought it was quite good so I started going there'; (Michael, 12)

When I was younger I used to watch it a lot and my brothers used to play it a lot, I used to go to matches and practices with them . (Asif,12)

It would seem, therefore, that to some extent, participation in cricket is often handed down through the generations, and also through older siblings. Importantly too, the interest in cricket of a family member that leads to some form of participation in the game is manifest at both the organised 'club' level, and also the informal recreational level.


The second factor pertinent to family influence is directly related to the first, but is different in the way that is understood by the young people at Ingram H.S. In some ways this is an even clearer demonstration of the influential role of 'significant others' in the pursuit of an interest in participating in cricket. Given the gender roles that are associated with a commitment to cricket, it is the male family-line that is especially relevant here; and even more specifically, it is those male family members that are presently, or have at some time in the past been active participants in formal and organised cricket. It is they who provide the inspiration to younger family members to take an interest in playing cricket. For example, Stuart's grandfather, who played First Class cricket for Somerset and Warwickshire in the1940s and 1950s, apparently had a considerable influence on Stuart's commitment to cricket:

I've been into cricket since I was quite young, my grandfather got me into it. (Stuart, 12)

The real motivation to take part in cricket, however, is provided by family members who are successful at their particular level of involvement in the game:

Yeah, 'cos it get's you in the mood - say your dad's doing really well, you think yeah, let's play cricket!. (Liam, 16)

Technical Competence

Cricket is manifestly a technically demanding game that requires an advanced vocabulary of both gross and fine motor skills. As such, individual experiences of success and failure in the game itself are often determined by the level of technical competence, and it becomes apparent in a later section that the very nature of the game discourages some young people from taking part. Yet for those who receive encouragement from family members to pursue an interest in cricket, it is often the technical aspects of the game that receive attention. As fifteen-year old Daniel explains:

My dad always gives me helpful advice an' that.

More specifically, particular individual skills are often encouraged:

My dad taught me a few things - like he's tried to improve my batting'; (Keith, 16)

I got a brother just older than me, he knows how to properly play - but my eldest brother teaches me how to play defensives better'; 1(Mohammed, 13)

My uncle helps a lot, he tells me the techniques to play spins. (Asif,12)

Interestingly, these comments all relate to the skills of batting, for it is whilst batting that many young people achieve the greatest sense of satisfaction from the game. Due to the way in which the game of cricket is structured, it is batting that places the greatest technical demands on players; for if batters make a single error, their participation in that specific aspect of the game is likely to be terminated. Hence, technical adequacy as a batter is often a pre-requisite for a prolonged positive experience of cricket; and it is often family members who help to teach and coach the fundamental skills of the game.

Peer Group Influence

The significance of peer groups on shaping the lifestyle and sub-cultures of young people has been well documented.36 For adolescent males asserting both their independence and their masculinity, peer groups often provide essential social support networks. With specific regard to cricket, the role and influence of the peer group should not be under-estimated, and may be seen to operate on two levels.

The first level of influence is a rather vague and imprecise concept concerning the significance of the 'streamed' academic ability bands on sports participation at Ingram H.S. It is clear that the pattern of representation in school sports teams is related to 'academic' bands; and that the cricket teams are dominated by those in the top band. This, of course, represents a multi-faceted phenomenon, and the processes at work are far from clear; but as Stephen Ball37 has demonstrated, peer groups are often closely linked to educational band, and so, therefore, in subtle ways to sport team participation.

In contrast, the second level of influence of peer groups on participation in cricket is very clear; and as thirteen-year old Daniel indicates below, this extends to supporting and sharing a general interest in the game, and also to providing the social interaction that enables the game to actually be played:

I like cricket on the whole, but most of my friends like cricket as well so that sometimes influences [me]. When I first came [to secondary school] I liked cricket but I wasn't sure if my mates would like it and they did like it and it's like influenced me to just get on with the game.

It is clear that Daniel's interest in cricket was consolidated and re-affirmed by his friends; and his active participation in the game facilitated through the peer group. For some, though, it is social interaction that is facilitated through playing cricket:

I don't find myself very good at cricket - it doesn't really matter to me - I just play 'cos my friends play, an' sometimes it can be fun.' (Tim, 13)

Unlike Tim, who demonstrates little commitment to cricket per se, when fifteen-year old Rajpal and his friends play, the games also take on a degree of seriousness:

We [my friends and me] always usually play cricket, we go out, we have a match down the park, proper match, and just come home.

In these instances, there is considerable kudos within the peer group to be gained by demonstrating skill and competence as a player; yet, at the same time, there is the non-threatening intimacy of a friendship group should anyone play badly:

If you play with your friends an' you do good, then like they'll respect you... but if you do bad then they'll say: 'better luck next time', 'cos they're your friends. (David, 12)

The Image of the Game

A key issue that emerged from the interviews with the students of Ingram H.S. was concerned with the image associated with cricket. As sixteen year old Liam explains:

I'd describe most cricketers as boring - I don't know why, I just would. You just sort of look at them on telly and they're just standin' there, waiting for the ball to come to them ... and you look at footballers and they're all having a go at the referee - like Gascoigne with his beer belly.

There are two important points that Liam recognises here: first the impact of the media on the way that the game is perceived, and second the comparisons that are inevitably made with other sports that are relatively accessible to young people.

It is very apparent that the media are hugely influential in the way that sport and leisure are experienced and perceived 38. The way that cricket is represented in the media in general, and on television in particular, has an enormous impact on the sorts of responses to it. Some are clearly very positive, and indicate that television coverage actually encourages active participation:

When I watch cricket, I feel the adrenalin go, I'd rather be outside playing it. If they had it a lot on BBC1 I think a lot of people would go out and play cricket and other sports. (Paul, 13)

Twelve-year old Rashid explains how he watched the 1992 Cricket World Cup on television, and was prompted to start playing himself:

I only started playing after the last World Cup - I thought the game was rubbish before that - but now I'm in the [school] team. (Rashid,12)

The underlying principle is simple:

Once they watch it they get influenced and so might start playing. (Mohammed,13)

At the same time, however, there are other negative perceptions:

It's a bit borin' - especially Test matches, the batsmen just play defence and I just fall asleep.... (Abdul, 13)

The theme of 'cricket and boredom' is recurrent, and the manner of the presentation of the game on television does not help to generate the interest of those whose sporting enthusiasm lies elsewhere:

In football the commentator shouts an' you get excited when he's shoutin' an' it makes you happy an' you shout too, an' when they score everyone goes wild. When you hit a six in cricket everyone starts clappin', 'cos it's not a cheerin' thing - it's too boring. (Rajpal, 15)

It would appear that in the eyes of these young people, cricket suffers from the comparison with other sports that seem to be more exciting. Football is one sport to which mention has already been made, and there is further evidence of the way that cricket is viewed:

Cricket's slow, so it doesn't catch much people's eyes and they don't watch it as much as football'; (Stuart, 12)

Football's more lively, it's more of a kid's game. Cricket's an adults's game it's more for people who like quiet sports. (Richard, 15)

The image of cricket is obviously related to the nature of the game itself, and it is easy to understand why Liam and Abdul (above) conclude that the long periods of relative inactivity are further evidence - if it was needed - of their less than favourable view. The whole notion of participation being relatively continuous, and 'involvement' being active, are the criteria against which cricket suffers most of all, and it is to these that the discussion now turns.

The Need for Involvement

Research in PE has shown that young people often claim to enjoy physical activity because it is 'fun'.39 Indeed PE teachers have reported that one of their major goals is to make PE an enjoyable experience for students 40. Cricket presents some unique challenges to the physical educator, and these extend beyond the educational sphere to a wider participation in the game by young people. In their overview of some of the work on the social psychology of young people's participation in sport, Goudas and Biddle 41 conclude that 'excitement', and the inter-related issues of 'doing the skills' and 'personal accomplishment', are essential if young people are to experience enjoyment and 'fun' from sporting activity. The young people at Ingram H.S. confirm the importance of these.


It is apparent from the previous section that cricket suffers from a negative image in the eyes of some, and this is compounded by experiences of the game that accentuate the perception of boredom and a lack of involvement:

It just don't appeal to me someone throwing a rock hard ball at you ... I hate fielding 'cos you're always standing around. I like batting 'cos I like to be involved'; (Harry, 12)

In cricket, if you get out then you've got to just watch the rest. Cricket is O.K. but I prefer football, 'cos you're always doin' something. (Samuel, 14)

Unlike participation in other major British team-games that have been touted as the panacea for all of society's ills,42 cricket, as twelve-year old Tim observed,

... is a team game where you don't play as a team - more like individuals.

Furthermore, there is a perception that as individuals, people participate for only a short time:

Football's a lot easier to play an' everyone gets to play at the same time - but when you play cricket you have to take turns battin'. (Rajpal,15)

In addition to the lack of involvement that characterises the experiences that many young people have of cricket, the game is not as readily accessible as others.

All my friends are mostly in the cricket team, but we just play more football. Say you just want to go down the park and have a muck around with a ball - with cricket you have to take stumps, you have to take a bat, you have to take a ball - like football you just grab a ball and just use jumpers or hats as posts and just play. All you have to do is take a ball. (Richard, 15)

In short, there is a view held by some that cricket is just too much trouble:

Why play cricket when football's so much easier - the only thing you need for football is a ball. Cricket you need everythin'. (Liam, 15)

Doing the Skills

If the opportunity to demonstrate the skills of a game is an important feature of a positive experience of that game, cricket is clearly disadvantaged in relation to other games because of the emphasis that is necessarily placed on technique. In this regard cricket emphasises elitism, for skilled performers not only have the ability and opportunity to practise their skills, but those people who most need to develop their own level of competence are denied the opportunity to do so. As Tim, aged twelve, perceptively remarks:

If you're no good, you don't play.

Inevitably, as Paish43 has observed in relation to the development of cricket in schools: 'The skilful excelled, but the mediocre became disillusioned with the game'.

Thus while technical competence enables some to play cricket, and incompetence prohibits the participation of others; the intrinsic satisfaction, enjoyment and 'fun' of the game are denied to the unskilled. The final outcome for some young people is inescapable: If they're no good at it and there's a boy who's better than them, they know they're not gonna get much of a bat and probably won't get much of a bowl - that's why most of the boys don't turn up and play really. (Richard, 14)

The performance of skills is clearly related to the way that individuals can achieve success in that sport. Thus, the real opportunities for personal accomplishment exist for those skilled individuals who already enjoy the benefits of their technical competence; that is, those people with a command of the game's basic skills:

Only way you'll be glory person in cricket is to be in bat, unless you catch someone out, or bowl someone out. (Liam, 15)

'Approachers' and 'Avoiders'

In an attempt to develop an enhanced understanding of the theoretical basis for young people's participation in sport and active recreation, Ken Fox has suggested that Britain's youth can be divided into three groups, and that these reflect their patterns of participation. He characterises one group as those of high ability who are likely to participate - the 'approachers'; a second, as those who are ambivalent towards sport and physical activity - the 'neutrals'; and a third, as those of relatively low ability who are unlikely to play - the 'avoiders'. This theroetical model helps to conceptualise participation and non-participation in cricket amongst those students at Ingram H.S. who were either favourably or unfavourably disposed to the game. That is, those who reflected the views, opinions and attitudes of 'approachers' and 'avoiders'

The 'approachers' might be seen as those who actually play cricket, but they are relatively few in number,46 and are clearly influenced by what may be seen as 'tradition'. That is to say, their active participation in cricket has been directly affected by family members (mostly the older males); and in the case of those young people of South Asian descent, by some cultural stereotypes of traditionally appropriate sporting behaviour. The emphasis on 'significant others' in the socialisation process is further confirmed by the role played by peer groups. Without the support provided by both of these groups, many of the learning processes and opportunities for skill development would not occur for young people with an interest in cricket. At the recreational level especially, these socialising agents are critical for the pursuit of an active interest in cricket.

For the 'approachers', the nature of the game is also such that their experiences of participation are almost always, by definition, very positive. By virtue of their level of competence, they are often involved in the game and are able to practise their skills, and to experience personal accomplishment and a sense of excitement from playing cricket. Hence, their perceptions of the image of the game are favourable, and these are consolidated by the media coverage that cricket receives.

Interestingly, the need for involvement in cricket was not explicitly mentioned by the 'approachers' as a significant factor in their decision to play; but it is implied within the concept of the technically skilled 'approacher' that competence will enable full and active participation. In contrast, for the 'avoiders' the lack of involvement is an important issue - perhaps the important issue - in rationalising their reluctance to take part in cricket. For 'avoiders', their lack of skill often prevents them from demonstrating a high level of personal performance, and consequently they are denied the opportunity to experience the inherent excitement of the game. Without these, it is no wonder that the 'avoiders' are, at best, only reluctant or coerced participants (whose experience of cricket is often obtained solely through compulsory PE lessons).

The socialisation process for the 'avoiders' is rather more nebulous than for the 'approachers', for whilst it is clear to see how 'significant others' influence young people to participate, the way in which they might influence non-participation is considerably less clear. The 'avoiders' at Ingram H.S. did not explicitly state that their decision not to play cricket had been directly affected by the non-participation of 'significant others'. They did not say, for instance, that they had been discouraged from pursuing an interest in cricket. Thus the extent of influence that the 'significant others' exert upon the 'avoiders' may be little more than the absence of a stimulus to participate in cricket.

As with the 'approachers', the media re-inforce the dominant image of cricket. The difference is that for the 'avoiders', the dominant image is unfavourable. Their experiences of participation are likely to have been negative, and the sense of enjoyment and 'fun' only minimal. In this light, cricket is seen as tedious, time-consuming and inactive.

Concluding Comments

The participation patterns of young males in cricket are evidently not strightforward; and there are no simple causal links that can be easily identified to explain the decision of some to play (the 'approachers'), and others not to (the 'avoiders'). Social class, gender, and ethnicity affect leisure lifestyles, and therefore sports participation; and the type of school attended, geographical location and access to facilities impact on participation in cricket very directly. Yet these are not the key factors that the young males at Ingram H.S. identify as being important in terms of their own willingness or reluctance to take part. None of the factors that they do identify are new, though the ways in which they are articulated, and the processes through which they operate have not been considered in the way that has been underaken in this analysis. Furthermore, it is the extent of their influence that has not, hitherto, been satisfactorily addressed, for it is this that presents an important difference between the 'approachers' and 'avoiders'.

It is clear that the role of the family is an important socialising agent for 'approachers' in any sporting activity; but it would seem to be especially important in cricket - and it is certainly more than had previously been thought. From an awareness of a family history in cricket, through the emulation of family sporting role models, to the technical advice that family members with a knowledge of cricket can offer, the institution of the family acts as a very positive force for the development of an interest in cricket. This is not to suggest, though, that family influence is a necessary requirement for young people to pursue active participation in cricket; but it frequently provides the sort of support that facilitates, enables or assists such participation. To a lesser degree, the influence of peer groups acts in a similar way.

The very nature of the game of cricket seems to influence 'avoiders' most. The need for involvement is such an important aspect of the experience of voluntary participation that without it, the game is perceived very unfavourably. The key feature of cricket, perhaps morethan other games, is the sense in which active participation (especially batting and bowling) is unequally distributed in favour of those who are talented (the 'approachers'). Hence, the experiences that 'avoiders' have of cricket include relatively little active involvement, and satisfaction from playing is minimal.

From an educational perspective, cricket presents a set of real dilemmas for physical educators. For instance, Political intervention by John Major's Conservative Government has forefronted compulsory team games (of which cricket is one) for all young people up to the age of sixteen;47 but PE departments are under increasing pressure to meet National Curriculum guidelines for a broad and balanced programme of activities.48 Compared to other team games - and especially other 'striking and fielding' games49 - cricket is a technically demanding game, and the basic threshold of competence for any sort of meaningful experience of the game is relatively high. It requires time and resources if it is to be introduced effectively; but British schools allocate an average of less than two hours per week to PE,50 and cricket is only one of many games, and 'games' only one of the six areas of experience in PE.

There is already some evidence that the development of cricket amongst young people is being undertaken by the cricket clubs themselves,51 but this inevitably raises questions about the often differing priorities of 'teaching' and 'coaching'. It also seems likely that the people who experience cricket in this way are the 'approachers' who are exposed to other stimuli that help to develop their interest in cricket. It is the 'avoiders' who present the greatest challenge to policy-makers and cricket providers, and modified versions of the game have already been introduced with the specific intention of equalising the levels of involvement, and of enhancing the quality of that involvement.52

The key point, though, is whether adaptations and modifications to the structure of cricket can make a real difference to the experiences that young people, and particularly 'avoiders', have of it. Only then will the negative perceptions of cricket that are prevalent amongst 'avoiders' be challenged, and the likelihood of their voluntary participation in cricket be increased.


1 We are grateful to Lesley Lawrence for her constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

2 Martin Toms is a graduate research student. He has spent the Summer Term of 1994 conducting the fieldwork at Ingram High School that has generated the findings presented in this paper. He is also an active Senior Coach with the National Cricket Association.

3 Scott Fleming is a Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport Science. He has written widely on the sports participation of young people from minority ethnic groups, and on the teaching of games. He is a Coach with the National Cricket Association, and is co-author (with S J Bull and J Doust) of Play Better Cricket. (Eastbourne, Spodym, 1991).

4 See, for example, M Dixon 'School Cricket in Crisis', The Cricketer, 72, 12 (1991), 18-19; and 'Michael Parkinson interviews John Major' Daily Telegraph (23rd August 1993), 34.

5 See, for example, G Townsend 'Crisis in the Schools', The Cricketer International, 8, 67 (1986), 43. More recently a survey of cricket club secretaries substantiates this view, in Sun Life of Canada and National Cricket Association, The National Cricket Club Survey, (Basingstoke, N.C.A., 1993).

6 Sports Council & National Cricket Association, Cricket Development Plan for Cricket for London and South East Regions, (London, Sports Council, 1994).

7 Basing, L., Drummond, & S., Padfield, 'Sportslink' - Brighton and Hove Sports and PE Project, (Hove, Brighton & Hove Borough Councils, 1989), p.2.

8 See, for example, RJ Shepherd 'Physical Activity and Child Health', Sports Medicine, 1, 205-233.

9 Chambers Cox P.R. Consultancy, The Lords' Taverners' School Games Survey, (London, Lords' Taverners, 1991).

10 Department of Education and Science & Welsh Office, Physical Education in the National Curriculum, (London, H.M.S.O., 1992)

11 K Roberts, Youth and Leisure, (London, George Allen & Unwin, 1983).

12 J Hargreaves, Sport, Power and Culture, (Oxford, Polity Press, 1986).

13 M-K Sisjord 'A Model for Sport Participation among Youths', in A Tomlinson (Ed.), Youth Cultures and the Domain of Leisure, (Eastbourne, Leisure Studies Association, 1989), pp.99-112.

14 See, for example, LB Hendry, J Shucksmith & J Love, Young People's Leisure and Lifestyles, Report on Phase 1 - 1985-89, (Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press, 1989).

15 G Whannel, Fields of Vision: Television Sport and Cultural Transformation, (London, Routledge, 1992). v 16 LB Hendry 'The Development of Young People's Leisure and Lifestyles', in G McFee & A Tomlinson (Eds.) Education, Sport and Leisure: Connections and Controversies, (Eastbourne, Chelsea School Research Centre, 1993), pp.149-166.

17 Sports Marketing Survey Company, Sports for School Children, (London, Sports Marketing Survey Company, 1986).

18 Sun Life of Canada and National Cricket Association, The National Cricket Club Survey, (Basingstoke, N.C.A., 1993)

19 This study is being conducted in collaboration with the National Cricket Association, and with the support of the Surrey County Cricket Development staff.

20 See, for example, Sports Council for Wales, Changing Times - Changing Needs: A Ten Year Strategy For Wales, (Cardiff, Sports Council for Wales, 1986) and A. Williams, 'Physical Activity Patterns among Adolescents - Some Curriculum Implications', Physical Education Review, 11, (1988), 28-39.

21 Roberts (1983), op. cit.

22 See, for example, P Willis, Learning to Labour, (Aldershot, Gower, 1977); and P Corrigan, Schooling the Smash Street Kids, (London, Macmillan, 1979).

23 See, for example, J. Sugden, 'The Exploitation of Disadvantage: The Occupational Sub-Culture of the Boxer', in J Horne, D. Jary & A Tomlinson (Eds.), Sport, Leisure and Social Relations, (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), pp.187-209; and S Fleming, 'Sport, Schooling and Asian Male Youth', in G Jarvie (Ed.) Sport, Racism and Ethnicity, (Lewes, Falmer Press, 1991), pp. 30-57.

24 C Lacey, Hightown Grammar, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1970), p. xi.

25 See, for example, P Willis, Profane Culture, (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978).

26 'Patball' is an in-house version of 'fives'.

27 Throughout the discussion of the interview data, the identity of the informants has been concealed. We do not feel that any of the data are particularly sensitive or controversial, but there is no good reason why their anonymity should not be protected.

28 See, for example, Hendry, et al. (1989), op. cit.

29 A brief analysis of one section of the questionnaire survey shows that of the sample population of 390, 32 play 'club' cricket (i.e. for an organised team outside school). Of these, 22 (69%), also have a family member who currently plays for a club.

30 See, for example, S Fleming, 'The Role of Sport in South Asian Cultures, in J Standeven, K Hardman & D Fisher (Eds.). Sport For All Into The 90's. (Aachen, Verlag & Meyer Verlag, 1991), pp.230-242; and J Williams 'South Asians and Cricket in Bolton', Sports Historian, 14, (1994), 56-65

31 See, for example, S Fleming 'Sport and South Asian Youth: The Perils of False Universalism' and Stereotyping', Leisure Studies, 13, 4 (1994- in press), 1-20.

32 Inside Story - 'The Race Game', (BBC TV, 1991)

33 E Spreitzer & EE Snyder 'Socialization into Sport: An Exploratory Path Analysis', Research Quarterly, 47, 2 (1976), 238-245.

34 It is clear that cricket is a male dominated activity, and has has some of the characteristics of a 'male preserve'; the influence of female family members on male participation should not be underestimated however, for there is anecdotal evidence that points to the instrumental role of women in the development of Test cricketers - see, for example, CD Clark, The Record-Breaking Sunil Gavaskar, (North Pomfret, David & Charles, 1980).

35 This is more than the manifestation of a sophisticated understanding of the strategy and tactics of a game in which the winner is decided by the greater number of runs scored. It is more to do with the inherent enjoyment that is derived from a 'striking and fielding' game; and in the main, it is the 'striking' aspect of the game that is often more appealing to young people learning the fundamentals of cricket.

36 See, for example, S Frith, The Sociology of Youth, (Ormskirk, Causeway Press, 1984).

37 S Ball, Beachside Comprehensive, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981).

38 G Whannel (1992), op. cit.

39 See, for example, B Dickenson & A Sparkes 'Pupil Definitions of Physical Education', British Journal of Physical Education Research Supplement, 2, (1988), 6-7 ; and MI Walter, Young People's Involvement in Play and Sport, (Brighton Polytechnic, Unpublished M.Phil Thesis, 1990).

40 See M Goudas & S Biddle 'Pupil Perceptions of Enjoyment in Physical Education', Physical Education Review, 16, 2 (1993), 145-150.

41 M Goudas & S Biddle (1993), op. cit., p.145.

42 See the accounts of Minister for Sport, Ian Sproat's 8,000 word report to Prime Minister John Major arguing the case for compulsory team games for all young people up to the age of sixteen; for example, P Hooley 'Sports for all back in school', Daily Express, (8th April 1994), 1 & 4.

43 W Paish 'Reinventing the Game', The Cricketer, 75, 4 (April 1994), 45-46.

44 See, S Fleming 'Understanding 'Understanding' - Making Sense of the Cognitive Approach to the Teaching of Games', Physical Education Review, 17, 3 (Autumn 1994 - in press)

46 K Fox 'The Child's Perspective in Physical Education Part 5: The Psychological Dimension in Physical Education', British Journal of Physical Education, 19, 1 (1988), 34-38.

47 A survey of the PE activities of young people in secondary schools, indicated that only 9% preferred cricket to any other activity - Inner London Education Authority, My Favourite Subject, (London, I.L.E.A., 1988). v 48 B Hugill 'Patten Forces Children to Play Team Games', The Observer (8th May 1994), p.1.

49 J McConachie Smith 'A National Curriculum in PE: Processes and Progression', British Journal of Physical Education, 21, 1 (1990), 226-230. v 50 For example, 'rounders', 'softball' and 'stoolball'. 51 'Less time is devoted to physical education in British secondary schools than in almost any other European country' - N Armstrong & A McManus 'Children's Fitness and Physical Activity - A Challenge for Physical Education', British Journal of Physical Education, 25, 1 (1994), 20-26. They report that the average number of weekly hours of PE in British secondary schools is as little as 1.5.

52 See, for example, R Steen 'Knocked for Six?', The PE Teacher, (Autumn 1993), 19-20.

53 See, for example, National Cricket Association, 'Test' Cricket in Clubs & Schools, (London, National Cricket Association, 1991) ; Know The Game, Indoor Cricket, (London, A & C Black, 1989); and Kwik Cricket Ltd. 'Here Comes the Fun', Kwik Cricket News, (Summer 1994),1.