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July 6, 2005
Two of Yorkshire's finest, Dickie Bird and Geoff Boycott, have pledged their support to the Chance to Shine campaign, a new ECB initiative that aims to regenerate interest in cricket in schools.
The campaign, which was launched in Bethnal Green, East London, at the start of England's Test series against Bangladesh, aims to raise £50 million to fund cricket programmes and competitions over the next 10 years. Bird and Boycott have carried the project further north, to Barnsley, the town where they both grew up and learnt their game.
Barnsley Cricket Club, where they both opened the batting, is one of twelve grounds in England and Wales participating in the pilot scheme. Bird, who has never been short of an anecdote, remembered growing up in an area that has not often had a chance to shine. "I went to school in the rough part of town," he told The Daily Telegraph, "where the pitches were bumpy and the outfields worse."
The initiative aims to work closely with 38 counties across England and Wales, where each coaching team will work with an average of six local schools, providing children the chance to play the game regularly. Their aim is to reach a third of all schools in England over the next ten years.
"Cricket has almost disappeared from the schools," commented Bird. "We need to get the lads and lasses back playing in good facilities with top-class coaches so that they can get as much enjoyment and success out of the game as I have. Who knows what potential there is lying untapped in our schools."
Despite enjoying superior facilities at his grammar school as a boy, Boycott was similarly enthused about the scheme. "This is not political but it needs to be addressed at national level because the game teaches self-discipline and builds character," he said. "This scheme goes a long way to redressing the balance."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi