English cricket is on an inclusivity mission which comes at a crucial time for the sport, and the country.
With a major European football tournament about to kick off, it may be a struggle for cricket to be heard this summer but, with a Test series starting against New Zealand at Lord’s this week and the advent of The Hundred – a brand new club competition – there have been a number of positive announcements in the past week that gave us all at Sportside reason to believe that 2021 can be a wonderful year for English cricket both on and off the field.
First came the news that Sky Sports has partnered with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to launch Dynamos Cricket Intros, an initiative that encourages children to take up the game of cricket regardless of gender, ability, or background.
The three-year project has been designed to reach children who might not ordinarily have access to cricket and aims to enable schools and community centres in underprivileged areas to provide courses for free.
Following the ECB’s launch of Dynamos Cricket, a new eight-week paid-for cricket course delivered in clubs and centres for 8 to 11-year-olds, Sky Sports and the ECB are now offering Dynamos Cricket Intros in 100 towns and cities across the UK.
Dynamos Cricket Intros offers a simplified and more dynamic game of ‘countdown cricket’ (where the number of balls left in the innings is counted down from 60).
The investment in the initiative is broken down into three main parts: recruitment and training, access to free courses and the creation of fun educational videos delivered by stars of the game.
The Dynamos Cricket Intros scheme will offer training to 300 new coaches who, once trained, will work in 150 schools and 150 community centres across the UK to encourage more children to pick up a bat and ball at no cost.
Applications to take part in this new coach training scheme are open to everyone via The Hundred Rising, a new programme of exciting opportunities to open cricket’s doors to new audiences this summer.
Then the videos, featuring England stars Jofra Archer and Tammy Beaumont, will be made available to all via the Sky Sports YouTube channel.
Rob Webster, Managing Director of Sky Sports said: “At Sky Sports we believe all children should have the opportunity to play cricket regardless of gender, ability or background. As a long-standing partner of the ECB we have invested in Dynamos Cricket Intros to tackle head-on some of the biggest barriers to participation. We can’t wait to work in 100 communities across the UK this summer inspiring more and more children to start playing the game that has been at the heart of Sky Sports for decades.”
Nick Pryde, Director of Participation and Growth at the ECB said: “As we launch The Hundred this year, we are excited to join forces with Sky on this project to help break down barriers to entry and inspire cricket’s future generations. In addition to Dynamos Cricket Intros, the ECB is also helping existing clubs open up to newcomers during the summer holidays by providing funding to up to 2,000 clubs.”
Another piece of positivity came from the news that, ahead of the New Zealand Test series, the cricket community has come together with Test sponsor LV= Insurance to launch the ‘In With Heart’ campaign with a new film featuring stars from all corners of the game paying tribute to cricket.
LV= Insurance became Official Title Partner of Men’s and Women’s Test Cricket in England and Wales earlier this year and, in line with LV=’s support of English cricket from grassroots level to the top, the film celebrates the sport’s community with some of the game’s elite, fans and recreational players all lending their voice to announce they’re ‘in’ for this summer’s domestic cricket season.
The film is narrated by former England captain Michael Vaughan and in it England Men’s Test players Joe Root, James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes are joined by England Women’s Anya Shrubsole and Heather Knight in revealing what cricket means to them.
Other contributors include former England bowler and broadcaster Isa Guha, Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed, Surrey spinner Amar Virdi, ECB Managing Director for Men’s Cricket, Ashley Giles, England disability player Jordan Williams and The Barmy Army’s Rob Lewis.
They are joined by other recreational players and fans including LV= Insurance ‘Cricket Champion’ volunteers in a celebration of the game.
Vaughan and Guha will then be working with LV= Insurance across the summer as brand ambassadors for the ‘In With Heart Tour’.
The tour has been designed to bring England and County stars past and present to eight #Funds4Runs initiatives, connecting the elite and grassroots together and celebrating the heart of the game.
#Funds4Runs was launched in November last year and focuses on the main areas where access to cricket support or cricket itself has been limited, including children from deprived backgrounds, diverse communities, disability groups and women and girls’ programmes.
Heather Smith, Managing Director at LV= General Insurance, said: “Our In With Heart film brings together faces from all walks of the cricket family and really showcases the excitement, passion and community spirit the sport generates, whether you’re playing in the park with friends or walking out to bat at Lords in a Test match. This togetherness and unity have never been more important.”
Joe Root, England Men’s Test Captain, said: “The cricket community is one big family – we’ve all come from local clubs – and so we’re all looking forward to reconnecting with the fans in grounds during the LV= Insurance Test Series this year. There is simply nothing like competing and winning in front of our supporters.”
England and New Zealand also agreed to join in a ‘moment of unity’ ahead of their Test series, supporting the campaign towards racial equality.
The two teams stood in silence around the boundary edge, as players across the domestic game did at the start of the County Championship season to coincide with the introduction of a new ECB anti-discrimination code of conduct by the ECB.
Root said: “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how we can better our sport, and how we can educate ourselves more. I think this year is all about action, about actually doing something about it.
“Hopefully this year we can really start to make a difference, keep that conversation current and make sure it is a game for everyone. We want to make our game more diverse and do as much as we can in that regard to grow the game and make everyone feel comfortable playing cricket.
“In many ways, we are the shop window of our sport – we’re at the top of the pyramid and we want to help as much as we can. If we can make a difference, we’re very keen to do that.
“We’re trying to work not just as an international team but throughout cricket – with the grassroots and the game’s partners as well, trying to do as much as we can to really make a difference.”