The resurrection of English cricket can inspire us all

I don’t think this complaint makes these parents bad people. They aren’t crazed flagellants. They just feel angry (and a little bit ashamed) that adults have lost their authority, and they don’t know how to get it back. They look wistfully at their own childhoods, and seem to think that children used to respect adults. They remember an age when young people respected the police. So in their anxiety they reach for a single decisive solution – corporal punishment.

I can see why they say it, and indeed one of the many excellent things that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is doing is to make clear that parents still do have this right, within reason. And yet hardly any of us believes, surely, that the world would be a better place if we brought back the systematic flogging of young people by adults, with all its potential for abuse. In calling for these desperate expedients, these parents are telling us about their own mental state. They feel frightened of their loss of control, frightened at the aggression of young people. They want boundaries restored, and it is the job of the state to help if it can.

Yes, we need to get young people into jobs and we need to invest in apprenticeships. But it is no use upending a dumper truck of money on “regeneration” without giving young people the mental preparation to do those jobs. It used to be said that you can’t tackle the problems of education without tackling poverty. In fact, it is the other way round. You can’t tackle poverty without tackling education.

Across this country there are stories of educational transformation to rival the resurrection of English cricket. In some of the poorest parts of London there are schools that are overcoming the indices of disadvantage and producing outstanding results. Look at the number of Oxbridge entrants from Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, or the grades of the kids from Burlington Danes in Hammersmith. Yes, it is about investment in those schools, in good facilities and well-motivated teachers. But Michael Gove is right to insist it is also about a culture of discipline; of standing up when any adult walks into the room; of taking your hands out of your pockets when you are talking to an adult; of addressing your teachers with respect.

It is so much better to be demanding of these children, and to insist on high standards – even if it means being frank about failure – than to give in to the endless lazy condescension of false praise. There are all sorts of ways of teaching young people self-discipline and respect for rules, not least competitive sport – and especially cricket, where one wild swipe is usually punished with ignominy.

That is why Kate Hoey MP and London’s sports team are supporting everything from boxing and basketball to water polo, and we support grassroots cricket, too. If you want to spread the benefits of cricket to inner-city kids, can I suggest that you support the excellent charity, Chance to Shine, which for only £15 a head will give cricket lessons to young people who would otherwise never dream of even trying the game. Of course kids mainly want to play football. But doesn’t it make sense to induct them into a game at which England has shown it can triumph, as well as one where we are a chronic disappointment?

Cricket may be a small part of the answer. But it is not to be despised: you are more likely to give young people boundaries if you teach them to score them. And unless we expand inner-city cricket, the gulf will widen between two nations – the one that has the chance to play cricket, and one that doesn’t even know England is winning.

4 thoughts on “The resurrection of English cricket can inspire us all”

  1. Hi Boris and all, something else to inspire and motivate you all. A Anthem made for the 2012 London Olympics. We did this song and video to welcome the world to our games, show the world we have positive youth, and to inspire all of team gb and the olympians. Hope you like it Boris, and all. Regards Johnny (Youth Coach)

    K’NAAN Feat Jedi and Johnny Hussain – Waving Flag UK 2012 Olympics Version


  2. Full marks again, Boris.If there is one lesson that young people can take from cricket, it is that the umpire is never argued with. His decision may, in your eyes, be wrong. But unlike the brattish footballers, cricketers do not dissent. Life is not always fair; and when a decision goes against you – even though it is a wrong decision – you get on and you play the game. You don’t behave like a two year-old, you behave like an adult.

    I wonder if at last the public has had its fill of alleged adults behaving like two year-olds. Everyone I’ve spoken to recently has thoroughly approved of the stiff sentences being issued to rioters by the courts. A signficant minority believe them to be too lenient. And the only people I hear whingeing about the ‘social’ problems of the rioters are the usual suspects at the Guardian and the BBC.

    Just a thought – what percentage of the Overseas Aid Budget would pay for a few more prisons, so that more criminals could be locked up? We are told that a massive percentage of criminals come out of jail and re-offend. If we gave them much, much longer sentences, they couldn’t re-offend, could they?

    Perhaps if the Tory party were to offer such a policy – an, uh, Tory policy – they could get into power without the Liberals. Which I thought was the idea of a Tory party.

  3. Cricket is a great sport. But we need to make sure that people can still watch it on telly. Last Saturday, or the Saturday before, I saw that England cricket team were playing a test match and the rugby team were playing against Wales. Great, I thought, I’ll watch the cricket. But then the realisation struck me: Can’t, it’s on SKY. Anyway, then I thought: Oh well, I’ll watch the rugby instead. But then I discovered the same problem: Can’t, it’s on SKY. And of course tonight England have a world cup qualifier. But will I be watching it? Can’t, it’s on SKY. Unfortunately, the reason it’s all on SKY is that it is now all about money. The top-level sportsmen, who kids look up to, are now motivated by greed more than anything else. If we want to instil better values in children it’s time to take the greed out of sport and put some pride back in.

  4. One of the comments I hear most often is about how the money from Sky goes into something called the ‘grass-roots’ of each sport. Not into my local sports clubs it doesn’t. The money seems to go to the enrichment of some of the players, many of the officials and, of course, the shareholders. I wonder when the fans will decide that they have better things to do with their money than enrich a small group of selfish men.

    As for the quality of the sport on view, cricket remains quite good, rugby has become incomprehensible – the ref seems to spend a large amount of time explaining his decisions to the players, and if the players don’t understand what’s going on….and football is so commercialised that I expect soon to see the players change their names ; ‘Wayne Tesco Extra Rooney’, etc., etc.

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