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Bank of England wants cricket ahead of football

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February 24, 2006 13:02 IST

The Ashes stole the thunder from English Premier League last summer. And now the Bank of England is making an effort to help cricket, the gentleman's game, overtake football.

Why? Because according to the Bank of England governor, Professor Mervyn King, football is not producing good role models.

King was at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai on Friday, to talk about the initiative his bank has taken in England to promote cricket at the school level.

"When we proposed this idea a lot of people said it would be difficult to get schools involved," said King. "But that was totally wrong. Parents and teachers wanted children to be involved in cricket. It is a game that helps build character.

"Unfortunately, football is not producing good role models. They go to jail; there are instances of bad behaviour in the game, some on the verge of criminal behaviour."

The programme, called 'Chance to Shine', is the initiative of Cricket Foundation, an independent and charitable arm of the England and Wales Cricket Board. It is aimed at introducing cricket as part of the school curriculum in State-owned schools, which constitute 93 per cent of the system.

"We are not doing this to produce Test cricketers or professional cricketers," said King, who is a cricket enthusiast and patron himself. "What we are looking at is helping children learn as much as they can from cricket. It is a unique sport, which teaches you to take individual responsibility as well as play as part of the team. We want children to enjoy playing cricket."

Apart from the values attached to cricket, the game is being promoted in schools because it brings together three of the biggest ethnic communities -- the white, Asian and the Caribbean -- and is also popular with school girls.

In the next two to three months, 'Chance to Shine' will also be involved in bringing the Indian and English schools together. They will identify and link 100 schools on each side on a one-on-one basis via the internet, so children and teachers can not only discuss cricket but also the cultural, historical and geographical differences between the two countries.

"When I started off as an economist, it was enough to know about your country. But today we are part of a global economy, so it is important for children to link and learn from each other.

"We will try to encourage students to be e-pals, which earlier used to be known as pen pals. But they could start with something as easy as weather stations; just exchanging news about the climate in each other's countries. The difference they will see will give them an idea of how life is different on the other side."

King said if there was adequate support they could also stage competitions between the countries.

Four of England's national players -- Michael Vaughan, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Strauss -- are involved in the progamme. Hoggard is also the brand ambassador of 'Chance to Shine'.

King added that the programme would try and include countries according to the English cricket team's tour schedule.

"Since England was touring India, it was logical for us to start here. Also, not only is India the powerhouse of cricket, it is also the most interesting economy of the world at the moment."

Deepti Patwardhan in Mumbai