Children’s interest in both watching and playing cricket has arguably never been stronger than it is today.
This interest is worth encouraging since, as well as being great fun, cricket is also acknowledged for its health and fitness benefits.
The good news is that in the UK today there are now more opportunities than ever for a child or young person to get into the game.
Cricket in schools
Although cricket is by no means the most prevalent of sports offered by schools, its influence is steadily growing.
Since 2005, 6,500 schools in England and Wales have – following the persuasion of a Cricket Foundation campaign – become actively involved in offering cricket coaching – with 1.8 million children benefitting as a result.
It should also be noted that the popular myth of cricket being a sport only for boys has now been completely dispelled – with girls making up 44% of this 1.8 million total.
It is hoped that in future more schools will be actively adopting the sport as part of their curriculum.
Children’s cricket at club level
It is not only of course certain schools where youngsters can have the chance to play and learn about cricket.
Most local adult cricket clubs also provide specialist coaching for children – mainly on spring and summer evenings, but also during the day outside school terms.
Although coaching tends to be held largely outdoors, some larger clubs will also offer indoor training during the winter months with the assistance of special nets.
Club coaching will usually cover all the essential techniques of the game – bowling, batting and fielding – and in many clubs the coaching will be in preparation for participation in junior level matches with children’s teams from other clubs.
Essential cricket kit for children
A bat is of course the main item needed to play cricket, but the heavy weight of a match standard ball means that protective pads for the shins, and padded gloves to help protect the fingers, are also vital.
Whilst many cricket clubs are likely to provide these basic items of cricket equipment, a large number of parents will often wish to buy their child his or her own bat for Christmas or on some other special occasion.
When buying a bat it should be borne in mind that bats are produced in different heights to match the individual height of the player – with children under 11 better off with a bat of lower height than is the case for those in their early to late teens.
In any case, for beginners, a bat made from the lighter weight Kashmir Willow is likely to be easier to use – and less expensive – than one made from English Willow.
Other items which may be purchased by parents – often when a child wishes to practice with friends in his or her spare time – are junior cricket pads and gloves. Many are also keen to ensure that additional protection is in place through the purchase of a helmet and box.
Most clubs will also expect parents to buy appropriate trousers, tops, and other suitable clothing for match days.