Do You Have To Be Rich To Play Cricket?

“Cricket is the most elitist sport in Britain” – The introduction to Freddie Flintoff’s Field Of Dreams

Flintoff’s programme on BBC One has prompted many questions and articles about whether one of the the show’s central premises, that working class children have virtually no chance of playing for England, was accurate.

I wrote a post here in 2017 which showed that 62.6% of Test appearances in the previous ten years were by players who had attended fee-paying schools, and this increased to an incredible 93.6% of appearances by batters and wicketkeepers. Of the 27 batters to play for England in that time, the only ones who attended exclusively secondary or grammar schools were Tim Ambrose, Michael Carberry, Adam Lyth, Owais Shah, Mark Stoneman, Michael Vaughan and Tom Westley.

When Michael Carberry (All Saints Catholic School, secondary) was abandoned as England opener after a single Ashes tour, despite outscoring Alastair Cook (Bedford School with a music scholarship, £21,945 per year), it is not unreasonable to think that a player who fit the archetype of an English batter (“Well spoken”, “articulate”, “sporting”, etc.) might have been given more chances by England’s chief selector James Whitaker (Uppingham School, £26,406 per year). That unconscious preference for players with similar backgrounds to themselves might well have continued with Ed Smith (Tonbridge School, £35,067 per year) and James Taylor (Shrewsbury School, £27,930 per year).

As easy (and fun) as it to blame the ECB and its’ selectors for a class bias, the simple truth is that there are very few state-schooled batters anywhere close to England contention in county cricket. That isn’t to say that there aren’t biases to be found in selection, but the real problems begin much, much earlier in the professional pathway.

Wealth confers an advantage in terms of playing professional cricket almost from birth. Purely in terms of forming an interest and love of watching the sport, a Sky Sports subscription (£407.88 per year on Now TV) is virtually essential. One noticeable theme from Freddie Flintoff’s Field Of Dreams was how few children in Preston failed to recognise Flintoff, but were also unable to even name any current England cricketers. Learning to play the game has similar barriers, where many public schools have full grass cricket pitches, former county cricketers as coaches and several hours of sport available every week whilst comprehensives are mostly limited to an hour or two of play with plastic bats and balls (if any cricket at all).

Children typically enter the county system between the ages of 10 and 14. By this point, the kids from wealthy families will have already received a significantly greater volume and quality of cricket coaching compared to their state-schooled competitors. This gives them a huge advantage at any county trials, an advantage which can be extended further through building relationships with the county coaches either via their school or expensive one-on-one coaching sessions.

Meanwhile, children without wealthy parents face a slew of obstacles before even reaching the county sessions. Public schools are significantly more likely to be visited by county scouts than an inner-city cricket club, for a start. This is doubly true for any club which is unable to enter the main ECB-affiliated leagues due to a lack of facilities or failing to gain the acceptance of the existing teams, regardless of how well they perform on the field. Most kids are limited to a couple of hours in the nets plus a single game every week, make do with cheap kit from a discount retailer, and rely on parents (often not theirs) for transport to away matches. All of this keeps a vast number of talented youngsters from even making it to the county trials, which are usually held in a different city or town to where they live anyway.

Those who do make it to the trials soon find that that being a part of the county age group squad is a very expensive business. At most counties, parents are expected to pay for a complete branded county kit, bats and other equipment, and also coaching. They are also strongly encouraged to shell out for expensive remedial one-on-one coaching for any flaws detected in training sessions, and sometimes even tours to foreign countries. Matt Prior (Brighton College with a sports scholarship, £20,490 per year) tweeted a few months ago that the cost for his two children in the Sussex CCC county set up was over £1,000 each.

This high cost invalidates the idea that public school scholarships act as some kind of social leveller which means that the statistics showing the dominance of privately-educated cricketers is unrepresentative. The most commonly used example is Joe Root (Worksop College with a sports scholarship, £14,199 per year). What people overlook is that Root joined the Yorkshire CCC youth system at the age of 11, and it wasn’t until he was 15 that he was offered his scholarship. This is the case with virtually all such scholarships; They are typically only offered after a child excels in the county youth teams and is virtually assured of a professional contract. If a family can’t even afford to attend the county’s training sessions, there is absolutely no chance that they will receive an all expenses paid golden ticket to an independent school.

Counties claim that they have little choice but to charge parents. Sussex CCC’s chief executive, Rob Andrew (Barnard Castle School, £15,498 per year), said:

“We all want the game to be as accessible as it can be. We all try to keep the costs reasonable. Where there is genuine hardship, we offer bursaries. We have genuine applications every year. The key thing for me is that in the end there is a significant cost to the counties to run these programmes. In an ideal world, we would offer all this coaching for free. But how do I pay for it? It would cost the club £250,000. We can’t afford to do that. Maybe some of the bigger counties have more resource, but we have to cut our cloth accordingly. If we’re forced to make it free, my fear is that the pathway programmes will get slashed.”

This begs the question: How much are Sussex CCC’s “pathway programmes” costing them now? The surprising answer is that, according to their own 2021 accounts, they are actually making a £17,000 profit from them (£499,000 income minus £482,000 expenses). Far from being a burden, or an investment necessary to improve the quality of the team, Sussex CCC seem to regard their age group squads and academies as a source of revenue to help fund other aspects of the club (such as, for example, their chief executive’s wages).

To put this figure of £499,000 in perspective: Sussex CCC’s combined ticket and membership sales in 2021 totalled £530,000. That season admittedly had reduced attendances due to COVID-19 (whilst the 2022 season has had reduced attendances due to the new scheduling), but even in 2019 they only managed to accrue £953,000 from people actually watching them play.

Squeezing parents for every penny they can is good business, but no way to run a cricket club. It is surprising to many outside observers that there are any costs to the parents at all. After all, why would a team exclude vast swathes of people without £1,000+ in their pockets when they are scouring their region for the best cricketers in their region? One reason is a total lack of consequences. Whether Sussex CCC develop all 11 England players or not, whether they use homegrown players or not, whether they gain promotion to Division 1 or not, the amount of revenue they receive is virtually unchanged. So why try?

This is a very different scenario to football, where the rewards for unearthing a star player are so lucrative (either through transfer fees or promotion) that clubs will bend over backwards to ensure any talented youngster signs for them. The idea of charging kids for this, potentially losing millions of pounds by allowing someone to be poached by a rival team, is anathema.

Sussex CCC could easily find ways to reduce expenses if they chose (or were forced) to not treat talented kids like a cash machine. They could just not have a uniform at all and have everyone play in their club/school whites for example. They could use their contracted players to help out in sessions rather than having so many dedicated coaches. It’s even possible to argue that children with access to professional-level cricket coaching and facilities at their (very expensive) schools don’t need to receive any coaching from the counties at all.

If we take the Sussex CCC chief executive’s estimate that completely free youth academies would cost them £250,000, then the total cost for all county cricket might be approximately £4,500,000 (18 x £250,000). The ECB’s Director Of Men’s Cricket, Rob Key (Colfe’s School, £19,125 per year), has proposed that profits from The Hundred should be used to fund age group county cricket in order not to “price half the people out of the market”. This is an interesting suggestion for a number of reasons: The first is that it is the contention of the ECB that The Hundred is already making a profit of roughly £11,000,000 every year. In that sense, the money is already available for this purpose. It has also been reported that the total budget for in-ground entertainment at The Hundred (fireworks, dancers, bands, etc) is over £6,000,000 per year. It is certainly worth questioning whether that is the best use of the ECB’s money.

This does nothing to absolve the counties of any blame, of course. Each county has received an extra £1,300,000 in annual funding from the ECB in exchange for their support of The Hundred, some of which could easily cover free youth coaching. Every club had a choice on what to spend that money on, and almost all of them have chosen not to spend it on their youth programmes.

The former ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison (Oundle School, £27,075 per year), certainly never took any steps to address these issues. Even when it was raised as a potentially racist policy which had the effect of preventing British Asians from becoming professional cricketers, it was just Yorkshire CCC rather than the ECB which acted. It remains to be seen whether the interim chief exectutive, Clair Connor (Brighton College, £20,490 per year), or whoever takes the role next will fare any better.

So to answer the question in the title: Perhaps you don’t have to be ‘rich’ to play county cricket, but you certainly won’t make it if you’re poor.

Any comments or questions about the post, any of the cricket being played, or anything else, leave them below.

17 thoughts on “Do You Have To Be Rich To Play Cricket?

  1. Mark Aug 1, 2022 / 7:41 am

    I suppose you would hope more kids from state schools could now come into professional cricket as it’s increasingly white ball & increasingly shorter white ball formats that are becoming the norm. (Also where the money is.)

    As a result you don’t need to learn how to bat for hours and hours on manicured green grass wickets that only privately run schools can pay a caretaker or groundsman to lovingly prepare. Ten overs is a long innings these days. Test cricket however is another issue entirely.

    The fees and charges by county clubs for parents is absurd. The kids don’t need to have all matching kit, and if they are good enough to be worthy of trials surely by then they have their own bat, pads and stuff? It sounds like it’s being run very badly. There is little imagination by management it seems to lower prices, and increase numbers of youngsters. The English cricket model, from participation to paying fan is high prices, with few watchers or participants. The “pile um high, sell um cheap” option seems to be an idea not known to chief executives. Do they not understand that there is so much choice for youngsters to try today?

    Also, Rob Andrew seems completely unaware that a kid today could become a lifelong customer for decades to come. Cricket can not afford to just rely on privately educated kids for their fan base in the future. And seeing as cricket as decided to hide themselves away behind a pay wall young state educated kids may not see much if any cricket these days. It would seem a private education is required not only to play cricket, but to hold all the positions of power in cricket. From the ECB to running county cricket.

    On another subject …..Has the England 20 over team peaked now? They seem to lose quite a few and by quite big margins. The old claim from a few years ago they could chase down any total seems to have gone. They got hammered by 90 runs yesterday. Which is a lot in that format.

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    • dannycricket Aug 1, 2022 / 8:30 am

      Whilst it’s true about less need for grass pitches, the issue is that richer kids have access to bowling machines (some of them even have their own nets at home) whilst most children don’t. It’s bowling machines which allow private schools to practice batting so much, because actual young bowlers are typically limited in how much they can play to reduce injuries. They are also more likely to have the equipment professional teams use (such as for measuring bat speeds) to help players score more sixes.

      I think the T20 team might be approaching a transition period. The majority of players are in their thirties, and you would expect them to decline naturally in the next few years. There’s a lot of depth in terms of English T20 batters thanks to the T20 Blast and the various T20 leagues around the world where they have gained experience. I can’t say that many of them have the consistency yet that made a batting lineup of Bairstow, Roy, Buttler and Morgan so fearsome at their prime though.

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      • Mark Aug 1, 2022 / 12:43 pm

        Bowling machines, home nets, it’s a world a way from my era. Not really sure what you can do about that to be honest. Wealthier people will always be able to buy more kit for their kids whatever the sport.

        I just think cricket should be trying to broaden the bottom of the pyramid, and then try and let the cream rise. Instead the administrators are obsessed with profits now, and sod the consequences in a decades time when they have moved on. They will no doubt claim that is what the 100 us about, but I’m not sure there is any evidence there will be the facilities for youngsters to start playing more cricket even if they see it on tv.

        A governing body should be a custodian of a sport. The past, the present, and the future. Today, they seem to be only interested in the right now. I’m not at all sure that International cricket will survive in the not to distant future if all the best players prefer to play franchise cricket. It would be ironic if the national governing bodies effectively abolished themselves by accident.

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    • Marek Aug 1, 2022 / 11:40 am

      Transition is an interesting idea in white-ball–especially in this kind of case where most of the batters are a similar age and none of them are much under 30. It could well manifest as going off a cliff completely, very suddenly.

      It’s also the kind of situation which calls for decisive, strong selection–because I simply can’t see them doing that well in November with this squad plus Stokes (and realistically, it’s very unlikely that any of Archer, Wood and Woakes will be fit). I wonder whether it’s time to leave out Roy and Malan, play at least one of Salt and Brook in the starting XI and possibly (counter-intuitive though it might seem) to recall Root. As for the rather anodyne-looking bowling, surely there’s only room for one of Curran and Willey in the squad, possibly only one of Gleeson and Mills and an absolute necessity for either Carse or Stone (provided they’re fit!)

      Depth is rather a relative concept. I’ve just watched an India side marmalise the West Indies (who England didn’t always look too flash against in January, remember)…who had only two players left from the side that had beaten them in an ODI series the week before (and both of which were missing both Kohli, Rahul, Bumrah and Shami).

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      • dannycricket Aug 1, 2022 / 6:28 pm

        I wouldn’t ever select Root for a white ball side again, just to let him rest and extend his Test career. Even with Bairstow’s resurgance, Root is the only batter I trust in the Test team with no younger players staking a claim yet. He’s too precious to risk him burning out.

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    • Derek Stocker (@PoppopsCricket) Aug 1, 2022 / 2:53 pm

      The paywall has a payoff never recognised.
      Fewer broken windows and dented cars.
      You see the short attention span of young lads was a bonus.
      My mates might watch half an hour of test on a B/W TV then go and play street cricket emulating men they had watched only hours ago.
      Right Ken, I’ll be Ted Dexter you be Tom Graveny. OK Alan, that’s grand. Oh look its big Tommy bowling at us. He reckons he’s as quick as Fred Trueman.

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  2. StaffordshireKnot Aug 7, 2022 / 11:19 am

    As usual, a well-presented hypothesis with some very valid points regarding the investment of cash that – these days – is supposedly required to develop cricketers.

    The word ’supposedly’ is important

    The piece is not a well-argued one though because it fails to examine the other side of the argument, which is……..’why are kids from less well-off backgrounds not appearing in the representative game’?

    One cannot condemn public schools and wealthier clubs for purchasing better facilities and coaching, it is entirely reasonable; one also has to ask what state schools many clubs are doing to develop the game of cricket.

    In the case of state schools the answer is ‘not a lot’………because teachers are incapable of coaching or even looking after sides – principally because most of them or women. Further, state school teachers will not extend themselves to do any ‘after hours’ work, and cricket is a lengthy game. As for clubs, how hard do they really work at it?

    We also have to call into question the attitudes of today’s young people. It is my belief that they do not have the mentality to concentrate and dedicate themselves to learning the techniques of cricket.

    I offer my own early experiences with cricket – in the later-70s/early-80s to highlight what seems to be missing these days.

    I grew up in the West Midlands, attended a grammar school in a town which had a Birmingham League club, and which also had many other smaller club in the vicinity – many attached to local industry.

    My school had two PE teachers, teachers of other subjects had to look after the age-group teams, and this would involve Wednesday afternoons that went well beyond 4.00p.m., and of course the whole of a Saturday, especially if there was an away fixture. The dedication of the teachers who did this ensured that we could play cricket.

    The local club ran Friday evening sessions that involved kids from all over the borough – including the rougher parts – and from these sessions a good number of kids stuck with cricket for many years. Some very good players emerged. Most Birmingham League clubs did this, and I particularly recall that the West Bromwich & Dartmouth C.C. side was most black and Asian – the whole community was drawn in.

    This brings me back to the word ’supposedly’. This piece states that heaps cash is required for kids to play cricket. This is not true. It’s never been true. Not is England, not in Windies, not in India and elsewhere in Asia and not in Australasia……….working-class kids, even kids from poor families have all found their way into the game, and made it to the upper level.

    So, one cannot state that it is money that drives success in cricket, and that kids who don’t go to public school will never make it – this is horse-shit.

    It is a question of state schools and clubs doing more to give working-class kids the opportunities to play.

    It is also important that the kids develop the desire to play a game that requires 8hrs of their time on a Saturday/Sunday.

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    • Marek Aug 7, 2022 / 12:02 pm

      I think you’ve misunderstood the argument about money. The piece isn’t, that I can see, saying that it’s INHERENTLY expensive to learn to play cricket, it’s that it ACTUALLY is if you want to play for a county because of the pathway system that the counties and the ECB operate. This has an impact whether it’s requiring triallists to buy branded kits and swankier equipment, travel to overly frequent training sessions held in distant locations, or pressurising them into getting private coaching.

      That would be unnecessarily expensive and exclude some people even under the system you’re describing: it would just create a glass ceiling at club level.

      In passing, I find your arguments about time pressure and the mentality of those feckless modern kids a tad unconvincing. To whatever extent they’re true, I can’t see that that would be dependent on class–it would be more a generational thing.

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      • Yeoman Aug 7, 2022 / 2:36 pm

        The discussion begs an interesting question which I do not have the answer to; how did counties scout out players 30-40 years ago, before the current, very expensive process was set up? Given the wider playing base then, presumably it was easier to access. I cannot speak from experience, never having been remotely good enough, however it would be good to hear from anyone who was.

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      • Marek Aug 7, 2022 / 2:55 pm

        I can’t speak from experience either–but there was an interesting comment on another blog on the same subject from another poster from Birmingham who’s older than StaffordshireKnot, saying that in his experience the scouting then was also biased towards public school pupils. On the other hand, the county team where I grew up didn’t from memory have many public school educated players at all, which would rather suggest the opposite (or that it was different in different places).

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        • Yeoman Aug 7, 2022 / 3:04 pm

          In the widest sense, I think that the increase in the proportion of privately-educated county cricketers in the last generation is most likely due to the increased time, effort and resources put towards sport at private school as they compete for pupils while at the same time participation in the wider community has fallen. However clearly the county youth set-ups do not help matters.

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  3. Rob Aug 8, 2022 / 7:00 pm

    To start with a minor quibble.

    Brighton College is considerably more than £20,490 a year, rather the base price is closer to £30,000. A small proportion of the year make up the cricket teams – as is to be expected.

    Adding in the school extras – pre season trips etcetera – and one is looking at an extra £8,000 to £10,000. You could say the same with all the other schools, perhaps with a London weighting.

    Only then does one need to get into the County tax (if one leaves aside club expenses). Plus a parent to spare (so take in a multiplier of two). So for each private school county playing child cricketer one needs about £50,000 of post tax income – one would need to be in the top 0.005 percent to afford this – not to mention the child with the skills. Danny’s paradigm case is virtually a unicorn.

    (Not that Matt Prior is unable to pay (perhaps he is making the “in my day argument” that compared with when he was there, prices have gone up – in which case, hard cheese old sport). For most parts, this is a very middle class problem – far divorced from the experience of Marcus Rashford (as told). )

    On average, the Sussex age group teams are not exclusively populated by private school kids, let alone from Brighton College (maybe one or two pupils a year on average), though the (largely white) club feeder system is more important. While Brighton College is ethnically diverse – as compared with England averages – the age cricket teams in Sussex are very white. (But at least the coaches did speak of “Pakistani players” in my earshot when they should be talking about British Asians (if such a distinction should exist).) The age groups might contribute a single County player a year – at best. Not so much as a pyramid but more of a shard.

    Even the Surrey, Middlesex and Essex age teams are very white compared with their local populaces – conversely Eton, Westminster, St Paul’s are not monopolising their age group county teams to any extent.

    If the Counties are milking these youngsters, that is the point – there is only a limited market for such a set up (the coaches and their fees if not the accounts limited to this niche market rather than being a straight money making exercise (in which case the rather poor six lanes of facilities at Sussex say are rather poor as compared with some private schools I have seen if profit was the aim).

    Rather like gaming the 11 plus, private school parents might try to get their kids into the County side prior to 10 simply to boost their chances at the public schools. In white counties like Kent or Sussex or even Surrey, there are the couple of diversity picks that can upgrade their resume – before seven years of public school sees such an extra curricular look good on an Oxbridge application. And after another few years, if one has kept in touch with the county system, you have someone like Zafar Ansari preferring a job in the city (not to single him out – but subsequent jobs for non white guys in the UK in cricket are few and far between and transitioning is even more difficult for them).

    In terms of producing cricketers at the age of 20, the public school system does not tend to work. Leave aside the Imran Khans who join in the last couple of years (or Holly Colvins or Matt Priors) from international duty – the few that spend any length of time in the system regress.

    Having a net and a bowling system might be fun to have at home – one learns to discern the sound as one walks through Edgbaston when in Birmingham now – but it does not develop skills to a greater degree and most coaches are simply panning to get the odd nugget like Ian Bell – supposedly a Wally Hammond like phenom when he was 15 but failing to go on – perhaps as a result of the regimented age group structure (one was expecting 40 test hundreds rather than the 22 or so he got) or perhaps he was not as good as the judges thought.

    In this way, it is no better than the supposed Pakistani set up – where the proverbial Imran sees a young Wasim at a training camp. But unlike in Pakistan, the training camp is not as widely open – if not that there is no development until after 27 in this country.

    (While on a bit of a tangent, while the England set up destroys bowlers, they do not make it easy for their batters. In the last 10 years, only Root and Bairstow have come of age, the former effectively fully formed. Bairstow was effectively cricketing royalty, with private school training, a Godfather in Sir Geoffrey, yet it is only in year 10 that he has transitioned to being a good player – with almost half of his Test hundreds coming in six months, if not development from year 5 / 2017 went walk about. And while I have not watched enough County Cricket, the championship batting quality does not seem that good as well).

    (Another aside, getting into the age group cricket county set up is now even more expensive than the golf county set – launch monitors or not – which is some turn around).

    The focus on the limited part private / public schools play misses the point, if not they are further under pressure. The 40% of Chinese International students at Roedean do not seem candidates for filling out the Sussex Women’s Team – while a poor example, the limited figures of private schools if not their past history skew matters considerably when it come to cricket. Rather one should look to the example of Izzy Wong, being only one of two girls out of a chance to shine group of 50 who was developed on from Solihull – to say that in her case it was money and private schools that made her is the wrong way around. The English game certainly has the money to afford teaching and development – if not ability to identify talent. The problem is an unwillingness to change the way in doing things, particularly with the temporary riches they are getting at the moment.

    I mean, they make the BCCI look competent.

    To go back to the example of Flintoff, in his age group he was one of the bigger players around (he did not appear more skillful than the others rather just beefier) – I saw David Beckham at the age of eight and, while he had the skills, I thought he was too small to succeed. Vaughan from a sports playing comprehensive school seemed a likely talent – making each of the steps up easily. An asian Anurag Singh (private school), while talked of as a future FEC, did not appear to have the back foot game. Another asian Vikram Solanki looked more promising (not from Private School) though arguably his FC career was more successful. I do not see that things have changed much, family involvement in a club set up being the first predictor of (FC) success (and then not a BME club); then ethnicity; then a wealthy background, whether through a private school or not. Not for nothing are people like Ole Mortensen rare.

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    • dannycricket Aug 8, 2022 / 8:58 pm

      The prices I quote for the schools are based on the lowest possible fee for a ‘secondary’ student. In this case, £20,490 is what a year 7 day school student would cost at Brighton College. For comparison: A year 12/13 student who lives full-time at the school would cost £46,710. And this is without extra fees such as coaching sessions, uniforms, etc. I used the lowest possible figures so that I could not be accused of exaggerating how much money is required for these schools.

      I wouldn’t consider making a profit as necessarily being the aim of counties like Sussex. Rather, I would say that the aim is to minimise the cost to the club, which had led to the rather extreme example of Sussex making a profit. It makes sense, in a way. Why have a net cost of £500,000 when you could achieve similar results with £50,000, and spend the saved money hiring a few star players?

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  4. Rob Aug 10, 2022 / 5:00 pm

    I take on board your caveats regarding Brighton College fees, amongst others.

    However, I speak direct experience about that school amongst others, whether in the private system or not. (There does not seem to be many boarders at Brighton College as for others for instance, though the facility exists. Granted, the Cost of Living crisis or not, I agree that this sort of experience is far from common. I take issue with the argument that public school attendance is required for success at County level as opposed to wealth per se.)

    The Sussex age group system – the teams always seem to be outclassed by the London teams (so the equivalence of ECB handouts is not ever justified) – is meant to be “self financing” – according to their explanations – rather than there being a set sum set aside for Yoff training that has an unjustifiably large buy ins just for the County age group players. I mean, given the paucity of players “graduating”, as all the Counties say, Sussex could cut the age group system without ill effects.

    In short, age group county cricket is a vanity system, not fit for scrutiny (if not loaded with cross subsidies). To consider that there is any profit – or loss on age group cricket is absurd – all that one can assess from these Sussex accounts is that they are “financially sound” – rather than identifying all potential cricketers across Sussex (and the Carribbean) in a year group (and while poorer metrics, the ECB should be applauded for at least trying to measure such things).

    As for the accounts – the BCCI accounts are more illuminating (not that many could even understand these if they were shown them).

    And this is all after Spen Cama and his donations – Graves should take note, give Yorkshire a further 10 million and write off all his previous loans – otherwise his legacy seems worser than Stanford, if not the Glasers at Man U and their over leveraged club. The club system is largely unfunded if not unprofessional in its talent development – except minimally through the ECB / Sport England etcetera – and that is a problem.

    Even outside private schools, you would need middle class parents to even know of or even attend any of numerous cricket clubs that dot the A roads surrounding Brighton. The average middle class child in Portslade or Whitehawk or Kemptown – where Brighton College is – hardly has any experience of cricket unless their parents are interested. If your argument is that the UK middle classes are getting squeezed, there is going to be little sympathy – like the £6.80 cost of Lagunitas at the Oval being on a par with that charged at Wimbledon).

    Having seen the sorts of practice that is provided – it seems poor. (Nutrition plans for 14 year olds? – almost the wild west of Dietetics. Limited bowling outside but excessive strength and conditioning regimes? Need 50cm thighs to keep your place? Good luck finding a GP to give your child Triamcinolone for their Stress fractures).

    On one occasion, I watched two players being instructed to play a forward defensive to off spin from the machine for 40 minutes. The ball was virtually pitching in the same spot – and none of the players – over 50 balls – were allowed to move out of position, let alone the crease, or asked to manoeuvre the ball. It is almost the equivalent of the Sussex County Age group golf teams having two buckets on the range at West Hove before a scramble round.

    If you have seen how they train baseball players now – while a simplification they train power then try connecting – this seems very similar. But it is no use if they cannot play an Axar Patel whose delivery is different. And while Mooen Ali (Balsall Heath and Moseley School apparently benefited from an outside net, one feels his current over emphasis on getting the odd 40 with three sixes in a T20 is limiting himself even further.) Which is where adult cricket will develop such players.

    And while there are peculiarities to all scouts as the rest – I do not think that there is much in the way of a private school bias in selection. They all have their favourites, the system is amateurish if not wide open to corruption.

    (And while the Middlesex chairman did misspeak to a degree about “blacks preferring football and Asians preferring their education” – as a reason why they do not make it into the County sides – the situation is more nuanced than this, if not still riddled with racism, where a single route is still preferred. I am sure that Gooch would not have been allowed to complete his apprenticeship now prior to signing – and more the waste).

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    • Marek Aug 10, 2022 / 7:03 pm

      To be honest, I really can’t see what you’re trying to argue in these two posts–but some of the evidential bases for the argument seem very flimsy.

      I suppose there may be some middle-class kids in Whitehawk these days–it’s a while since I lived near there–but it appears to have been voted one of the UK’s most deprived areas at least twice since 2010. It’s a strange example of what middle-class kids might be doing.

      There aren’t many boarders at Brighton College? From the figures I could find, around 55% of pupils board.

      And–especially–county scouts don’t have a public school bias? To confine it to Sussex, there seem to be seventeen Sussex-produced players currently on the staff who’ve played for them this season or have missed the whole season injured. ALL of them went to public school–and as far as i can see no fewer than seven of them went to the same public school and I think three went to another.

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    • Marek Aug 10, 2022 / 9:56 pm

      It’s not that 2022 is especially anomalous either. Of recently left players Salt, Finch, Brown and Sakande are all products of public schools and there’s at least one other product of a Sussex public school playing for another county

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      • Rob Aug 11, 2022 / 7:56 pm

        While a doctor at the Sussex County might send their children to Brighton College next door, the children of nurses populating Whitehawk that starts to the north of the RSCH site might not even be able to send children into any of the club system set ups that you would easily miss around Brighton.

        (And compared with your Etons, Brighton College is not that boarder dominated – in the age group teams members who do not benefit from discounts for their sporting processes – unless you have a full breakdown for each age year of the relevant teams).

        Whitehawk might be “deprived” but it is not as deprived as Balsall Heath (Mooen Ali) was and Preston (Flintoff) now – if not say Mumbai. There are gradations – I apologise if your experience in these three places are different – deprivation varies and statistics are as limited as Sir Alistair Cook’s undoubted greatness.

        I agree that the Sussex Age group system is flawed, if not limited, but is very much is a vanity system. Two dozen players at the each age group is a very limited system – it is the equivalent of medical school places in India. In the 1960s. You need a wider system than this to identify and develop talent (say 5000 / 1000 players at each county age group) – if not you need to accept that the Sussex teams will not produce as good enough players in as many numbers if not they are not diverse enough.

        Sussex have made progress – when you compare their systems to say those in Scotland (where they do not seek out talent and, per recent reports, only develop the white talent).

        This is the larger problem of identification. Then there is the problem of making sure players in the system are developed – the notion of there being a pathway smacks of Soviet era “nomenklatura”

        Michael Atherton’s son, if not KP’s, if not Matt Priors might be in this class but it does not sound like a meritocracy. While careers vary, these people are deemed to be the elite of the elite (more than say Special Forces selection). Yet no one here yet rates Josh De Caires yet as an opener. He should be thought of as the best of the 25 in his year group, rather than being the average that 5000 others could have been, if given training and opportunity.

        If England cannot identify their best 11 most times, why do they feel qualified to think that they can identify the best 25, at the age of 11, in most counties?

        In terms of my personal experience, family members were involved in cricket in Bombay as it then was. Say what you want about that system, but at age 16, a known player like Tendulkar is able to be hitting pre stress fracture Ian Bishop at Chesterfield at the age of 16. You cannot say the same would happen in England with Ian Bell (apologies to him and the comparison).

        Moving to the UK as a child, in the West Midlands primary private school I attended, a number of county players had children in the same school who were good players, some in the age county system. While one’s mileage varies, not always did the county age group system choose the best players – none of them made it in the county system beyond the age of 16 – including someone who actually had an outdoor net – no bowling machines then).

        The same process repeated itself at secondary school – a former grammar 65 percent BME – as representative of Birmingham – now that produced fuller time graduates to the county circuit. Asian club players in the School team failed to break through to any of the County Teams. Looking on from the other side of the hill, the biases are not as simple if not accurate – otherwise there would be a majority of non white players in th Warwickshire first XI now (Yorkshire being another world), applying Danny’s argument wholesale, rather just the odd Asif Din or Keith Piper (though he was from London) – Small a relocator.

        The third point is not always the best under 17 / under 18 age group players make it to the counties – much like the civil bar making up a disproportionate number of MPs (and not necessarily the best of the civil bar) – rather than say doctors, another wealthy group. Wealth is not the only issue.

        And then there is Zak Crawley….

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