After the five love in South Africa and the 51 all out, cricket seemed a doomed sport that time had passed by. But the astonishing turn around by Brian Lara and his men has left the game very much still alive and kicking. The WICB however, can not afford to rest on its laurels. West Indies cricket might no longer be on the verge of dying, but it is by no means in good health. Unless we get young people playing the game again, it can not have a good future.


One problem is that cricket equipment is very expensive. A bat alone costs over $3,000. Stumps, balls, pads and gloves mean it costs $10,000 just to start a game. No wonder football and basketball are so much more popular with the young. One ball, often free from a promotion, and they’re off.


Kwik Cricket is a low cost way of attracting youngsters to the game. Here is an excerpt from the London Sunday Times on September 27 1998.


 “Schools were no longer teaching or playing cricket. It was clear to anybody who cared that something had to be done to attract new blood to the game. The innovative solution was Kwik Cricket, launched 10 years ago with the aim of getting children to enjoy the game in as many schools as possible. If this could be achieved, then maybe the death knell being sounded for the summer game would be silenced. So has it worked?


The answer is emphatic, says Stuart Robertson, Kwik Cricket development executive with the England Cricket Board (ECB): “Yes, no doubt about it. We have distributed 50,000 kits, and it is being played in 50% of the primary schools in England. Nearly one million primary-school boys and girls play, and 600,000 secondary-school pupils participate in one form of cricket or another.


Kwik Cricket sets, comprising two bats, two balls, two stumps and bases, cost £49.95, although a subsidy scheme aimed at schools buying a set for the first time means they pay only £25. Although made of plastic, the sets are rugged and durable, and should never have to be replaced.


There are many reasons for its success. The bright yellow tops, blue bats and orange balls all give out the right image signals to youngsters; we encourage them to have fun; there are no hard and fast rules; and it can be played all year.


Particular efforts are made to ensure that deprived inner-city and small rural schools get priority treatment. A measure of how seriously the initiative is being taken can be demonstrated by the resources being directed towards the growth of the game. There are 70 full-time development officers working throughout the country - three years ago there were 10 part-timers.


Road shows also help to spread the message. During 1998 we went to more than 30 non-cricketing venues. We visited seaside towns, the Lake District, balloon festivals and the like, and introduced a further 15,000 children to the game.”


I hope the WICB and all the other regional authorities read the original article. If regional governments and the private sector are really interested in helping West Indies cricket, here is a cost effective opportunity for them to do so. (Mr. Robertson’s e-mail address is


Some will ask if it is really worth trying to save cricket. Sports, they argue, contribute nothing to national growth and money would be better directed into education and health. But sport is one of the most effective ways of positively shaping the characters of young boys. And with so many of our youngsters lacking fathers, a good coach can serve as a positive role model who they can look to for guidance.


(But it’s important to keep matters in perspective. Only a miniscule percentage of even gifted athletes go on to make a living in sport. It is nothing short of criminal for school authorities to encourage young boys to ignore their academic studies in the quest for ephemeral sporting success. Having played on a Manning Cup winner 5 years ago is of absolutely no use to a functionally illiterate young man.)


High school teachers and coaches agree that cricket is the most character forming of games. Above all it teaches the values of perseverance, alert patience, assiduous practice, the perfection of technique, and grace under pressure. Schoolboy cricketers generally outclass footballers academically. There could there be no worse prescription for Jamaica’s young boys than to expose them only to football and its attendant unthinking indiscipline and disrespect for anything except winning. (The growing popularity of basketball, an even more helter-skelter and thoughtless game, is not going to improve matters in this respect.)


Which is why schoolboys’ declining interest in cricket should be of some concern to the nation. For this is one of the few spheres of Jamaican life where sportsmanship and respect for authority still exist. Modern mores have coarsened the ideals of sportsmanship, but they still survive more healthily in cricket than in any other game. The Sabina Park test crowd still applauds an opposing batsman’s hundred. And no player dares to question an umpire’s decision.


No other sport creates such lasting memories or provides such a wide scope for intelligent discussion as this game of reflective subtleties, infinite variety and glorious uncertainty. To say it broadens the mind may be stretching a point. But listening to test match commentaries is the only exposure many Jamaicans get to the correct use of the English language. Were cricket just another sport like hockey or table tennis, its lessening popularity would not arouse much apprehension. Big or small, a ball is a ball, and what difference does it make if it’s thrown, kicked or hit with a stick?


But cricket is famously more than a game. It’s an institution, especially in the West Indies. Only cricket prevents our culture from being completely overwhelmed by North American television. Those who feel that the concept of “West Indianness” is worth preserving must realize that this idea has no chance of surviving without cricket. It is the only thing that unites the region. The average Jamaican doesn’t know or care who Baseo Panday, Owen Arthur or Janet Jagan are, but he or she identifies wholeheartedly with Brian Lara, Sherwin Campbell and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.


Jamaica is not going to fall apart if cricket dies. Nor is the game some magical universal panacea - it’s the national pastime of India, which is not exactly an economic and political beacon. But in Jamaica’s historical context cricket is one of our few defenses against an increasing tide of reckless impatience, willful ignorance and apathetic illiteracy. The powers that be - the government, the private sector and educational institutes - should do everything they can to encourage the game and preserve it as an integral part of our society and school system. If nothing else it provides this chronologically challenged country with a  unique example of punctuality. Because first class cricket matches are the only events in Jamaica that regularly start on time.

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