July 26, 2013

A schoolboy curse?

Steve Cannane
From Donald Bradman to Michael Clarke, state school graduates have dominated the ranks of Australian Test teams. What are private schools doing wrong?
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In cricketing terms Ed Cowan comes from a disadvantaged background. Australia's top-order batsman was educated at Cranbrook, an elite private school well known for producing accumulators of wealth (James Packer, James Fairfax) as well as a few de-accumulators (Jodee Rich, Rodney Adler), but not so many accumulators of runs and wickets.

But Cranbrook is not alone. Despite having access to the best facilities and good coaches, cricketers from elite private schools across Sydney are up against it when it comes to making it into the Test arena.

When Jackson Bird made his debut in last year's Boxing Day Test, veteran sports journalist David Lord pointed out that he was just the fifth Sydney GPS old boy to play Test cricket for Australia in 80 years. (The others are Stan McCabe, Jimmy Burke, Jack Moroney, and Phil Emery - Cowan's old school is part of the Associated Schools competition). By Lord's calculation, Sydney GPS schools have produced 132 Wallabies but just ten Test cricketers since 1877.

So why the imbalance?

One of the reasons is that cricket, unlike rugby, is a game in which 15-year-old boys can compete against men. If you attend a state school or a non-elite private school, you don't have to play for your school on a Saturday. A teenage boy playing grade or district cricket early has his temperament and skills tested against men. As a result, his development is accelerated.

"Historically yes, not being able to play against men regularly between those formative years of 15-18, particularly in New South Wales, is a bit of a disadvantage," Cowan told me in the lead-up to this Ashes series. "Playing on good wickets you get mollycoddled a little bit in the private school system, and you're not playing against great cricketers."

Cowan was lucky his headmaster at Cranbrook, Dr Bruce Carter, was a cricket fan. Carter released him from school first XI duties so he could play first grade for Sydney University in his final year of school. Cowan was able to test himself against first-class bowlers and has no doubt it made him a better cricketer.

"I definitely think that last year, if I had to play school cricket, that would have been a bit of a handbrake on my development."

Former Australia captain Greg Chappell is adamant that quality young cricketers need to test themselves against men. When I was researching my book on the formative years of Australia's best cricketers, he told me attitudes needed to change in the private-school system.

"This whole idea of holding kids back in their age group is one of the greatest impediments to their development."

Chappell was one of three brothers who played Test cricket for Australia. All attended Adelaide's Prince Alfred College. But when Greg and Ian went to school, the first XI played in the men's District B Grade competition. At the age of 14 they were facing bowlers who had played, or would soon play, first-class cricket.

By the time younger brother Trevor attended Prince Alfred College, the first XI team was only playing against other school teams. Trevor dominated schoolboy attacks but never dominated Test attacks like his older brothers. Both Ian and Greg believe the school's withdrawal from the men's competition was detrimental to their young brother's development.

"I believe," Ian wrote, "playing against grown men at a young age gave Greg and me a huge advantage over Trevor."

When Ashton Agar made his extraordinary debut at Trent Bridge, cricket fans were struck by his maturity and unflappable nature. Playing in his first Test at the age of 19, he broke two significant records: the highest ever Test score by a No. 11 batsman (98) and the highest partnership for the last wicket (163 with Phil Hughes).

Agar is only 18 months out of school. Would he have been able to show such maturity if he hadn't been playing against men from an early age? Agar's old school, De La Salle College in Melbourne, plays their first XI cricket on a Wednesday. This allowed Agar to play district cricket for Richmond on weekends. He made the club's first-grade team when he was in year 11.

Agar's school coach Marty Rhoden, a former first-grade legspinner, has seen other young boys stagnate after winning sporting scholarships to elite private schools.

"I've witnessed several cases of students who would have benefited if they stayed at their schools, where they could keep playing club cricket on Saturdays. I'd argue it had a direct effect on their development."

Of course there are exceptions. Shane Warne won a sporting scholarship to Mentone Grammar, as did current fast bowler James Pattinson at Haileybury. Pattinson's school coach Andrew Lynch, now Victoria's chairman of selectors, believes it benefits good cricketers to keep playing for their school.

"They get an opportunity to dominate, which is important, and the competition only goes for ten weeks, so if they're good enough they can still go and play for their clubs."

****

Of the 12 players chosen for the Australia Test team of the 20th century, eight went to state schools

Cricket is a game of statistics as well as stories. So let's lay out some numbers. If we take the NSW squad as an example, of the 19 players contracted last season, 14 went to state schools, four went to religious private schools, and one went to both. None of the squad attended an elite private school in Sydney.

If we look at the Australian team at Trent Bridge, the figures are closer. Six went to state schools: Michael Clarke (Westfields Sports High); Phillip Hughes (Macksville High/Homebush Boys High); Steve Smith (Menai High); Brad Haddin (Karabar High); Mitchell Starc (Homebush Boys High); and Peter Siddle (Kurnai College).

Agar, as discussed earlier, went to a Catholic college that allowed him to play cricket for his club. Four went to elite private schools: Shane Watson (Ipswich Grammar); Chris Rogers (Wesley College in Perth); Pattinson (Haileybury in Victoria); and Cowan (Cranbrook).

But if we split it up into those who grew up in NSW, it becomes five state school boys, and one private school boy, who was released from school duties to play club cricket in year 12.

If we look at how elite private schools in other states go about their business, there may be some clues. Watson played grade cricket in Brisbane for Easts/Redlands while still at school. According to Ipswich Grammar's cricket coach Aaron Moore, in Brisbane's GPS competition they play only eight games, kicking off the season in February, and encouraging their boys to play senior cricket up until then.

In Tasmania it's similar. Launceston Grammar, which produced David Boon and current Ashes squad member James Faulkner, only plays six to eight games, freeing up their boys to play for their club sides more often than their Sydney counterparts.

In Western Australia, the private school system seems to be working. In recent decades, the Darlot Cup has fostered Test players such as Justin Langer, Stuart MacGill, Chris Rogers, Simon Katich, Geoff Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tom Moody, Terry Alderman, Brad Hogg, and Brendon Julian. Seven private schools play each other in a competition that lasts seven weeks, with each game played over two days - Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. While the schools are considered elite, they are more accessible and affordable than those in the eastern states.

According to John Rogers, a former NSW Sheffield Shield cricketer, and father of the current Australian opener, the Darlot Cup was where his son first found his feet.

"I had no prospect or intention of sending my sons to GPS schools in Sydney. I was astonished to find I could in Perth and the facilities were superb and the competition played with intensity. Darlot Cup is a long, tiring exhausting battle and the boys love its drawn-out, competitive nature. Perth is quite different from Sydney and Melbourne. What Greg Chappell says has always been the case in Sydney - but in my view it doesn't apply to Perth."

Having scored several hundreds in the Darlot Cup, on wickets as good as the WACA, Chris Rogers made a seamless transition to club cricket with Melville in his last term at school, making 70 in his second first-grade game against a trio of two-metre tall Test bowers - Jo Angel, Brendon Julian and Tom Moody.

"At the same time," Rogers says, "Michael and David Hussey were making their way through the grade system. WA has the advantage that both systems have been shown to work well."

Despite the productivity of Perth's private schools, graduates of state schools have tended to dominate the ranks of Australian Test teams. If we look at the top tier of Australian cricketers, they tend to have been exposed to men's cricket from an early age.

Of the 12 players chosen for the Australia Test team of the 20th century, eight went to state schools: Bill Ponsford (Alfred Crescent School); Arthur Morris (Newcastle Boys High and Canterbury Boys High); Don Bradman (Bowral Public School); Neil Harvey (Falconer St School); Keith Miller (Melbourne High); Ian Healy (Brisbane State High); Dennis Lillee (Belmont High); and Allan Border (North Sydney Boys High). Two went to private schools: Greg Chappell (Prince Alfred College); and Ray Lindwall (Marist Brothers, Darlinghurst). The remaining two players went to both state and private, the rogue legspinners Shane Warne (Hampton High and Mentone Grammar) and Bill O'Reilly (Goulburn High and St Patrick's College, Goulburn). Of the 12, only Warne did not play regular club cricket against adults in his final years in school.

If we analyse Australia's team in the first Ashes Test 12 years ago, when they put one of their best ever teams on the field, it's an almost identical story. Eight of the 11 went to state schools: Michael Slater (Wagga Wagga High); Ricky Ponting (Brooks Senior High); Mark and Steve Waugh (East Hills Boys High); Damien Martyn (Girrawheen Senior High); Adam Gilchrist (Kadina High); Brett Lee (Oak Flats High); and Glenn McGrath (Narromine High). Two went to private Catholic schools: Jason Gillespie (Cabra Dominican College); and Matthew Hayden (Marist College, Ashgrove). Shane Warne went to both state and private schools, as mentioned, and once again was the outlier, being the only one in the team who did not play regular club cricket against adults in his final years at school.

In 1998, fast bowler Matthew Nicholson was picked to play against England in the Boxing Day Test match. A former student at Knox Grammar, Nicholson was the last graduate of Sydney's elite private schools to make it to Test cricket before Cowan and Bird were selected. He is now the director of cricket at Newington College.

Nicholson doesn't feel that attending a private school held back his development: "I don't think so. I captained my side and was able to develop in other ways. I learnt how to be a leader and learnt about myself, and I was still able to play for my grade side, Gordon, for eight weeks in the school holidays."

Nicholson makes a valid point that in private schools, boys have to juggle a range of activities that might put them behind cricket-obsessed boys in state schools: "A lot of our boys are pulled in different directions - school commitments, drama, music and academic. For many of them cricket is a small part of their life, for other boys it can be almost everything; all they do is hit balls."

You can't imagine a 16-year-old Michael Clarke having to miss a net session to rehearse for The Mikado, or make sure he did his euphonium practice. Clarke went to a sports high school and his parents ran an indoor cricket centre. He had the time, the inclination and the facilities to hit balls for hours on end.

If neuroscientists like Daniel Levitin are right when they say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any skill, then Clarke had a big advantage over his private school contemporaries. Private school students in Sydney often spend hours commuting to and from school. State school students and private school boys in smaller cities can spend more time in the nets and less time stuck on the bus in traffic.

In an interesting aside, in England it is an advantage to go to a private school. Writing in History Today, former English Test cricketer Ed Smith points out that having a private school background is an advantage in England: "Simply, if you want to play for England, first attend a private school."

Smith claims over two-thirds of England's 2012 team were privately educated, an extraordinary figure when you consider around 7% of English children go to private schools. In Australia, it's a different tale. Around 35% of Australian children go to private schools, or five times the number in England, and yet the majority of our Test team continues to come from the state-school system.

So what are the lessons from all of this? Should private schools in Sydney look at the Perth and Brisbane models? Should they be more willing to release their best players to play grade cricket?

Nicholson says the most important thing is the development of the boys: "If they feel like they are being held back, then we should let them go."

Maybe the private schools should be asked to move their first XI cricket to Wednesdays or Sundays so all the boys get a chance to play against men from an early age on. But there's little chance of that happening. In elite private schools, tradition is everything.

As one coach told me, "We had enough troubles changing the start time by half an hour, let alone changing the days!"

Steve Cannane is presenter of The Drum on ABC News 24 and author of First Tests: Great Australian Cricketers and the Backyards That Made Them. This article was originally published in ABC's The Drum

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Biggus on July 26, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    I can well remember playing against Tom Moody in the Darlot cup, he for Guildford Grammar and me for Christchurch. He had a brother Richard, from memory, who played for Guildford too. Most of the good cricketers in our team went on to play Aussie rules for Claremont and subsequently some for the Eagles, and Tom's the only one that I can recall going anywhere in cricket from that particular Darlot Cup crop.

  • KPWij on July 26, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    Fantastic piece. I think another factor to consider when thinking about schools and sporting alumini is the fact that a lot of elite private schools and selective schools place a large emphasis on academics (in particular in recent times). The emphasis on academics results in sports and other extra-curricular activities being "hobbies" and "past-times" where you play for fun rather than seriously considering it as a career pursuit. State schools tend to not have such an emphasis. There have been many highly skilled individuals within these establishments but a lot of these people went into University, found a passion in a particular technical field and took the option of a normal professional. There can only be 11 cricketers in a national team (maybe 20 national contracts) and treating the game as a hobby won't get you into that elite bracket no matter how talented you are... practice and outright dedication is essential in these professional days.

  • Jagger on July 27, 2013, 17:15 GMT

    I went to an elite private school in Victoria, and in Brisbane, and I lived for cricket. We did not get enough opportunity to play cricket, even though umpire Mel Johnson was my English teacher and Carl Rackemann was my Boarding master. Both men were impressed with my cricket but coaching wasn't even offered. I slept with my cricket bat at night, practiced throwing at the stumps with both hands alone, yet none of the Phys Ed teachers knew how to coach cricket. Channel 9's Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud were my only coaches. I remember we had a pom teacher who wanted us to play soccer every Phys Ed class, which we hated. He didn't know a cricket bat from a wooden leg. Come to think of it we spent more time in both music and religious education class singing than playing cricket. None of us wanted to sing. I bowled a bouncer in the nets one day, at lunchtime, and split the kids eye right open (again, sorry Todd). After that I never played cricket again.

  • Chris_Howard on July 27, 2013, 12:30 GMT

    Maybe the English public school kids all pursue soccer and its millions

  • Moppa on July 27, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    @Varun Rao and @drinks.break are on to something, I agree the development challenges are different for batsmen and bowlers. In particular, a batsman must learn to respond to the challenges put forward by physically developed and tactically experienced bowlers, and hence the competition he or she faces is crucial. Whereas a bowler with outstanding physical talents could easily develop them bowling in the nets to no one... or on the beach as legend has it Curtly Ambrose did. My understanding is that Glenn McGrath hardly bowled until he was 16. (Of course, bowlers do need to develop nous through match experience, but this is more of the icing on the cake). Given Australia is churning out talented fast bowlers, but the batsmen are struggling, one could speculate that the talent pool is still there but the development environment is flawed. Perhaps one element of it is the lack of opportunities for teenage batsmen to play in senior competitions.

  • DustBowl on July 27, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    Great piece, I've heard Ian Chappell on the importance of early exposure on a number of occasions. Could we have something on the other countries. eg Dravid and Sehwag were not from under-privileged backgrounds? Cricket is perhaps declining in state schools in England, due to higher costs and Health and Safety fears.

  • S.Jagernath on July 27, 2013, 6:33 GMT

    I actually think Australia has no problem at all here.They should be happy that state schools can produce cricketers in such numbers for the national team.Other countries barely have any cricketers that attended public schools,South Africa is the best example of that.Australia have plenty of talent,many of them lack the patience & technique for test cricket.Australia will never lack talent.

  • richcricketguru on July 27, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    Chandra has the analysis correct - the ratio is about where it should be. I realise a lot of people will read the headline and agree because of their pre-existing biased and bigoted beliefs about all things private schools. So private schools produce soft, emotionally weak, pathetic cricketers and public schools produce real tough, well balanced, team orientated, skillful cricketers? Many of our current crop of players went to public/state schools - how are they going?

  • gurumaster on July 27, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Darlot comp has not produced many cricketers who have not first been in the District Junior System. It's a dinosaur and prevents more kids from playing in a better comp rather than encouraging them to play at the higher levels. That is to the detriment of both competitions and a waste of kids talent and development.

  • on July 27, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    Interesting however i think it only works in the case of a batsman. With a bowler, as evident in the cases of warne, etc. i don't think it matters to much. With a batsman, maturity and experience counts in runs and the experience of facing players 5-10 years older i essential in their mental development. However, private schools can offer bowlers elite physical training equipment to prepare their bodies for bowling 40-50 overs a day in test cricket.

  • Biggus on July 26, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    I can well remember playing against Tom Moody in the Darlot cup, he for Guildford Grammar and me for Christchurch. He had a brother Richard, from memory, who played for Guildford too. Most of the good cricketers in our team went on to play Aussie rules for Claremont and subsequently some for the Eagles, and Tom's the only one that I can recall going anywhere in cricket from that particular Darlot Cup crop.

  • KPWij on July 26, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    Fantastic piece. I think another factor to consider when thinking about schools and sporting alumini is the fact that a lot of elite private schools and selective schools place a large emphasis on academics (in particular in recent times). The emphasis on academics results in sports and other extra-curricular activities being "hobbies" and "past-times" where you play for fun rather than seriously considering it as a career pursuit. State schools tend to not have such an emphasis. There have been many highly skilled individuals within these establishments but a lot of these people went into University, found a passion in a particular technical field and took the option of a normal professional. There can only be 11 cricketers in a national team (maybe 20 national contracts) and treating the game as a hobby won't get you into that elite bracket no matter how talented you are... practice and outright dedication is essential in these professional days.

  • Jagger on July 27, 2013, 17:15 GMT

    I went to an elite private school in Victoria, and in Brisbane, and I lived for cricket. We did not get enough opportunity to play cricket, even though umpire Mel Johnson was my English teacher and Carl Rackemann was my Boarding master. Both men were impressed with my cricket but coaching wasn't even offered. I slept with my cricket bat at night, practiced throwing at the stumps with both hands alone, yet none of the Phys Ed teachers knew how to coach cricket. Channel 9's Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud were my only coaches. I remember we had a pom teacher who wanted us to play soccer every Phys Ed class, which we hated. He didn't know a cricket bat from a wooden leg. Come to think of it we spent more time in both music and religious education class singing than playing cricket. None of us wanted to sing. I bowled a bouncer in the nets one day, at lunchtime, and split the kids eye right open (again, sorry Todd). After that I never played cricket again.

  • Chris_Howard on July 27, 2013, 12:30 GMT

    Maybe the English public school kids all pursue soccer and its millions

  • Moppa on July 27, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    @Varun Rao and @drinks.break are on to something, I agree the development challenges are different for batsmen and bowlers. In particular, a batsman must learn to respond to the challenges put forward by physically developed and tactically experienced bowlers, and hence the competition he or she faces is crucial. Whereas a bowler with outstanding physical talents could easily develop them bowling in the nets to no one... or on the beach as legend has it Curtly Ambrose did. My understanding is that Glenn McGrath hardly bowled until he was 16. (Of course, bowlers do need to develop nous through match experience, but this is more of the icing on the cake). Given Australia is churning out talented fast bowlers, but the batsmen are struggling, one could speculate that the talent pool is still there but the development environment is flawed. Perhaps one element of it is the lack of opportunities for teenage batsmen to play in senior competitions.

  • DustBowl on July 27, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    Great piece, I've heard Ian Chappell on the importance of early exposure on a number of occasions. Could we have something on the other countries. eg Dravid and Sehwag were not from under-privileged backgrounds? Cricket is perhaps declining in state schools in England, due to higher costs and Health and Safety fears.

  • S.Jagernath on July 27, 2013, 6:33 GMT

    I actually think Australia has no problem at all here.They should be happy that state schools can produce cricketers in such numbers for the national team.Other countries barely have any cricketers that attended public schools,South Africa is the best example of that.Australia have plenty of talent,many of them lack the patience & technique for test cricket.Australia will never lack talent.

  • richcricketguru on July 27, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    Chandra has the analysis correct - the ratio is about where it should be. I realise a lot of people will read the headline and agree because of their pre-existing biased and bigoted beliefs about all things private schools. So private schools produce soft, emotionally weak, pathetic cricketers and public schools produce real tough, well balanced, team orientated, skillful cricketers? Many of our current crop of players went to public/state schools - how are they going?

  • gurumaster on July 27, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Darlot comp has not produced many cricketers who have not first been in the District Junior System. It's a dinosaur and prevents more kids from playing in a better comp rather than encouraging them to play at the higher levels. That is to the detriment of both competitions and a waste of kids talent and development.

  • on July 27, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    Interesting however i think it only works in the case of a batsman. With a bowler, as evident in the cases of warne, etc. i don't think it matters to much. With a batsman, maturity and experience counts in runs and the experience of facing players 5-10 years older i essential in their mental development. However, private schools can offer bowlers elite physical training equipment to prepare their bodies for bowling 40-50 overs a day in test cricket.

  • on July 26, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    If I am rich enough to be sending my kid to a private school, I will be training him for law/business (low risk, high reward careers) rather than sports (high risk high reward).

  • on July 26, 2013, 19:18 GMT

    Steve, I don't see what the problem here is. If 35% of Aus kids go to private schools and your current team is 4.5-6.5 private-state then doesn't that roughly reflect the attendance, and that opportunities are evenly balanced for all kids ?

    England, on the other hands, has a real problem with 7% of all kids going to private schools but representing 2/3rds of the team. In England, the resources available at private schools and an utter lack of infrastructure/personnel at state schools means that the factors stacked against state school kids are so high its hardly a level playing field. This is a shame as cricket is a unique game in the developmental qualities that are inherent to the playing of it.

    In all honesty, the game has a great grassroot hold in Aus than Eng and their recent performance should not be linked to this, but more to how England manages their elite cricketers better with the right specialists.

  • yorkshirematt on July 26, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    As a staunchly working class yorkshireman, the idea of teams being made up of privately educated people fills me with despair. Like going back to the days of players v gentlemen. From what I've heard Aus is one of the best places (outside northern England of course) for the standard and competitiveness of its club cricket. Almost every England international and county player talks about going down under for a winter in their late teens/ early twenties to "toughen up" in aussie club cricket. So what is the need for private schools?

  • Edwards_Anderson on July 26, 2013, 16:04 GMT

    Clarke and Khawaja went to the same sports school and i think the same school has produced some famous soccer and league players as well so they are doing something right. Private schools don't seem to produce tough cricketers in the last 10 years, hopefully that changes.

  • on July 26, 2013, 15:44 GMT

    Rugby Union plays a huge role in private schools. Union is almost entirely dependent on the private school system. Not as much time for cricket. And as long as rugby keeps pushing for more Super Rugby teams then the pressure there will be on these schools to provide more players. Again cricket will be the loser.

  • on July 26, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    As an Old Sydneian (Sydney Grammar School) 1. Rugby is only played by elite private schools, the government schools play league so its more likely they will produce rugby players. 2. The focus at school is more on producing gentleman rather than focused skills such as sports. Equal importance is given to academic ability with the idea that the students will contribute to society as a whole.

  • drinks.break on July 26, 2013, 14:01 GMT

    I wonder if the Warne/Nicholson examples suggest that it's easier for a bowler to develop without adult competition than a batsman. After all, a bowler doesn't need to learn to face the physical fear of a 140 km/h thunderbolt coming at his head, whereas, if a batsman never gets that experience, he never develops.

  • on July 26, 2013, 13:30 GMT

    Michael Clarke went to my current school. :)

  • on July 26, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    In WA the Darlot Cup was considered the pinnacle of junior cricket by the WACA. They seemed to rate private school boys above public schoolboys.I remember a one day match at the WACA when the scruffy public boys beat the priviledged boys.The WACA gang and the snooty mums were devestated. Later I realised that the only jobs outside the WACA system for its coaches were in the private schools.

  • Felixis on July 26, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    Great article, Steve. I'd have to agree with Rowayton on this one - if your son or daughter is showing immense promise in a sport the best structures to nurture their talent usually lay outside of the school-yard walls, so why continue to shell out huge sums of money for a structure that provides a top class education that may not be the child's focus at that stage in their life?

    The best swimming coaches aren't the PE teachers just like the best cricket coach probably isn't Mr Ponsonby, the English teacher who happened to play third division. I went to a private school in QLD and the focus was always on entering our Firsts team into whatever Men's and Women's competitions we could no matter what the sport.

  • on July 26, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    How do you rank Brisbane State High. Famously in one game the mighty State High had 3 players alone in one Test Team. When Stuart Law hit the field alongside Healy and Kasper.

  • Big_Chikka on July 26, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    so many structural features of cricket still make me angry, public v private school; now emerging player academies in uk stifle talent that develops later; limited opportunities. Australians are lucky in that kids can get through despite being from state schools, its the reverse in the uk. would love to be able to compete and take a team to say Bunbury festival made up of kids from my area and in state schools, pretty sure we'd give many counties a run for their money. uk private school kids play loads of matches state school kids a tiny proportion, and most can't afford tea money and subs at recognized clubs, in fact most catch buses to grounds. ecb has a lot to answer for! Would love to see a NEW BOARD of cricket, just to create some healthy competition.

  • Mervo on July 26, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    What are the schools doing in Australia? Playing rugby. Certainly not cricket any longer

  • smudgeon on July 26, 2013, 10:17 GMT

    Had to look twice at the name of the author - remember Steve well from his Hack days! And an excellent, article, not something I think I had ever thought about. Have to say though, when I was in high school (public) in Tasmania, school-based cricket teams were non-existent. I remember once playing cricket in a PE class, but most kids were only interested in football. Anyone who was interested in cricket had to pursue it outside school. I suspect it was much different in the private schools here...

  • CutHis_ArminHalf on July 26, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    Totally agree with the concept.

    As a 15 and 16 year old i opened the batting in a mens side in Sydney.

    Although I didn't continue playing cricket (other sports intervened) when I eventually got back into cricket in my 30's nothing I have faced in the premier league structure in England has phased me as I faced better bowling when I was 15.

  • Guernica on July 26, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Agree with some comments here. I think there is a far bigger problem in Britain in that cricket is played very little at state schools. I think I had one proper game of cricket (i.e. about 2 hours) and a few hours of net sessions during my time at school. Rugby union, football, hockey, basketball and even danish longball were all played a lot more.

  • Rowayton on July 26, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Thanks Steve, I now realise that my going to a private school was the reason for my lack of success rather than being extremely ordinary as I had previously believed. Seriously though, I'd have to think that money and parental expectation has a lot to do with it. People send their kids to GPS schools to be doctors or lawyers or community leaders ( tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull) rather than professional cricketers. It actually strikes me that cricket in NSW has always been a working class game. Can't imagine Thommo at a private school.

  • smcory on July 26, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    At GPS school's in sydney the main summer sport is Rowing . Then comes swimming, cricket , tennis , athletics and basketball. In winter rugby is the main game followed by soccer and aussie rules .

  • Cricket24 on July 26, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    Where I play in the US, there are no chances for kids to play other kids. So we kids play in an fully adult league, and have learned to counter many things. As young U-15 player, I always open against adult fast bolwers who bolw 85+ and make half centuries on pathethic and hopeless grounds, and our captain is 13!!

  • millsy24 on July 26, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    LoungeChairCritic, there are quite a few coming in now to the NSW 17 and 19 teams. My kids have been to both private and public schools. The disappointing thing though is that because they can't play grade because of school commitments, they come in over the summer holidays and play a couple of games in a higher grade than they would make if they weren't in the state teams. My son's grade club has boys that play 3 and 4 grade for a couple of games without doing anything too much and once they make the state teams they get bumped up to 1st grade to give them the opportunity of making the final state team, even if they aren't good enough to be there and it comes at the expense of players that are better. These kids can play cricket, but have dominated school teams and aren't battle hardened or as good as the ones that have played against older guys for most of their grade cricketing lives.

  • Mr_Truth on July 26, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    Here's something that no-one has mentioned: privilege can lead to brattiness, which doesn't prepare you for overcoming hurdles. Here's a true story - I briefly attended a private school, and we were required to participate in a wide range of activities to broaden our horizons. One weekend we were playing cricket, which no-one had to twist my arm to do. My team was fielding, and both of the batsmen were caught at the same end when the bails were removed (not unlike Katich and Watson). The non-striker had refused to listen to 'No' and came down the wicket anyway. So huge was his ego that he expected to be obeyed. He got into an argument with his partner, and they looked like they were going to punch one another's lights out. Though given out, he refused to go, and argued with the umpire, who was one our teachers. The teacher caved in. I was disgusted by this at every level, as was my entire team. I've never seen the like. This sort of behaviour was not unusual at this school.

  • craig1731 on July 26, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    I think this article drastically misses the point; shouldn't the message here be how lucky Australians are to live in a country where you don't need to come from a Public School to play for your country? The percentage of people who attend Public Schools (the number hasn't always been as high as 35%) seems to be reasonably comparable to the percentage of Test cricketers who have come from Public Schools over the last century. Here we are lambasting Public Schools for not producing more Test cricketers, and seemingly applauding, and aspiring to, an English system where only the elite have a fighting chance to play Test cricket? I am a former Public School student, but am proud to live in a country where a working class bloke from Western Sydney is our Test captain, and he didn't need a Public School scholarship or rich parents to get there.

  • GeoffreysMother on July 26, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    Ever such an interesting read and set of comments. I think it is very similar in the UK. Whilst the gap between facilities and access to professional coaches is absolutely huge between state and private schools in England an increasing number of players are from state education. The E.C.B's funding of clubs to develop good coaching and facilities and state schools which acknowledge their need to feed in promising and enthusiastic players (especially from non cricketing families as helped). Yorkshire's, Lancashire's and Durham's teams, awash with young talent, are primarily state educated and from a club base, whilst Surrey and Middlesex (huge centres of population in an area awash with private schools) seem to rely on old men and imports. Don't let the guys dressed in Bacon and Egg at Lords fool you - they aren't the heart of English Cricket. And if you want a bit of 'mongrel' you would go for Bresnan rather than Finn.

  • LoungeChairCritic on July 26, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    It would be interesting to analyse how many private school kids versus public school kids in NSW make state under 17 & 19 teams. In WA, the Darlot Cup school system is totally dominant in producing underage state representatives, shield players and national players. Darlot Cup kids play on turf, generally have former grade or state players train them, go on oversea's tours and are scouted by under-age coaches. Darlot Cup schools also tend to have an excellent relationship with nearby grade clubs. Most private school kids play for grade teams when they have no Darlot cup commitments. As a slight kid, Chris Rogers was most definitely nurtured at both Wesley, Melville & probably Meulemen's (A family run cricket training centre wedged between Melville & Wesley). At between 15k to 25k per year Darlot Cup schools are not cheap. Mr Rogers made a good investment. I am sure he is very proud of what Chris has achieved in his career.

  • PFEL on July 26, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    " Greg Chappell is adamant that quality young cricketers need to test themselves against men." - this strikes me as odd. Wasn't Greg Chappell the one who brought in the whole Under-23s and emphasis on youth development programs for young cricketers just a few years ago? Program which focusses on youth playing other youth and not against "men"?? Very, very contradictory.

  • on July 26, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    Marto played at Aquinas, same school as JL

  • Metro-ant on July 26, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    I know from our current generation and playing grade cricket myself, there is a huge gap between the GPS/ASC players and the other schools. One area in particular is attitude. Players break records on a yearly basis in the competition and have giant egos once they come to grade cricket when they're 18 and they become total misfits where there are state school and some private school kids that have been playing grade cricket since they were 14/15. It's the same situation in Sri Lanka where school players break records set by the greats in the 80s 90s and when they come to club cricket and eventually international cricket, only some blossom. The only difference between Sri Lanka and Australia is that one country has some cricketers playing against men at an early age, the other has none whatsoever until they're 18 playing only club cricket.

  • Jeremy303 on July 26, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    I used to play cricket for a private school and I'll never forget spending the summer holidays playing with my local grade team. At school, I was playing two day matches and was an opening bat. My coaches lauded my defensive technique and ability to play with my wrists to deflect pace bowling into gaps. My first summer in grade cricket was an eye-opening experience. Although still playing against teenagers, I could immediately sense a difference in the way the game was being played at the grade side. It was far more aggressive and there was more of an emphasis on playing the game in a hard, intimidating way. My grade opening partner used to club the ball to all parts of the ground. It always amazed me how he didn't get out playing this way whilst dominating attacks. Watching Cowan and Warner opening the batting reminded me of those days. My experience might not be representative of all private school cricketers, but I'm sure there are some, like Cowan, who might agree.

  • MrKricket on July 26, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    I've always wondered about this. When I was at (NSW state) school there was a state-wide high school cricket competition called the Davidson Shield. I think the private schools weren't in it (for fear of being shown up by the state schools) but it was a tough competition. My school won it that year defeating Steve and Mark Waugh's team in a semi. A lot of our team played lower grades at the weekend as we had the weekends free unlike the private schools. Maybe this needs to be looked at.

    I am amazed at how England has managed to produce this current crop of cricketers from such a small pool of talent. I would guess that they don't even play cricket at govt schools in the UK. So with that tiny 7% (equal to 21% in numbers in Australia) they can produce 8 out of 11 of the current side (leaving out the Saffers). Imagine if they could get cricket back in the comprehensives.

  • Chris_P on July 26, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    At schoolboy level, the private schools excel as it is played in a mundane atmosphere. The youngsters who play senior cricket on weekends get toughened up with men, characters, the "take no prisoners" mentality. Give me the Steve Waugh upbringing over any private school upbringing for on field mental toughness any day. I would suggest that the Wallabies, on their almost over reliance on private school nursery will never ever match the All Blacks over a sustained period for the simple reason our forwards just haven't got enough "mongrel" in them to match the street smart, public school hardened hard heads of the All Blacks. This is the reason why our League team thrives, not too much in the intelligence stakes, but rock hard physical specimens. Just my take from one who has been involved in both sides of the school education system.

  • MrVTrumper on July 26, 2013, 3:34 GMT

    Interesting to think about the differences in young cricketers' development. Out of curiosity I note that the Chappell brothers' school, Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, has certainly contributed a few other test cricketers to the nation, including four test captains Joe Darling, Clem Hill (both admittedly of an entirely different era) and, of course, the Chappells.

  • MrVTrumper on July 26, 2013, 3:34 GMT

    Interesting to think about the differences in young cricketers' development. Out of curiosity I note that the Chappell brothers' school, Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, has certainly contributed a few other test cricketers to the nation, including four test captains Joe Darling, Clem Hill (both admittedly of an entirely different era) and, of course, the Chappells.

  • Chris_P on July 26, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    At schoolboy level, the private schools excel as it is played in a mundane atmosphere. The youngsters who play senior cricket on weekends get toughened up with men, characters, the "take no prisoners" mentality. Give me the Steve Waugh upbringing over any private school upbringing for on field mental toughness any day. I would suggest that the Wallabies, on their almost over reliance on private school nursery will never ever match the All Blacks over a sustained period for the simple reason our forwards just haven't got enough "mongrel" in them to match the street smart, public school hardened hard heads of the All Blacks. This is the reason why our League team thrives, not too much in the intelligence stakes, but rock hard physical specimens. Just my take from one who has been involved in both sides of the school education system.

  • MrKricket on July 26, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    I've always wondered about this. When I was at (NSW state) school there was a state-wide high school cricket competition called the Davidson Shield. I think the private schools weren't in it (for fear of being shown up by the state schools) but it was a tough competition. My school won it that year defeating Steve and Mark Waugh's team in a semi. A lot of our team played lower grades at the weekend as we had the weekends free unlike the private schools. Maybe this needs to be looked at.

    I am amazed at how England has managed to produce this current crop of cricketers from such a small pool of talent. I would guess that they don't even play cricket at govt schools in the UK. So with that tiny 7% (equal to 21% in numbers in Australia) they can produce 8 out of 11 of the current side (leaving out the Saffers). Imagine if they could get cricket back in the comprehensives.

  • Jeremy303 on July 26, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    I used to play cricket for a private school and I'll never forget spending the summer holidays playing with my local grade team. At school, I was playing two day matches and was an opening bat. My coaches lauded my defensive technique and ability to play with my wrists to deflect pace bowling into gaps. My first summer in grade cricket was an eye-opening experience. Although still playing against teenagers, I could immediately sense a difference in the way the game was being played at the grade side. It was far more aggressive and there was more of an emphasis on playing the game in a hard, intimidating way. My grade opening partner used to club the ball to all parts of the ground. It always amazed me how he didn't get out playing this way whilst dominating attacks. Watching Cowan and Warner opening the batting reminded me of those days. My experience might not be representative of all private school cricketers, but I'm sure there are some, like Cowan, who might agree.

  • Metro-ant on July 26, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    I know from our current generation and playing grade cricket myself, there is a huge gap between the GPS/ASC players and the other schools. One area in particular is attitude. Players break records on a yearly basis in the competition and have giant egos once they come to grade cricket when they're 18 and they become total misfits where there are state school and some private school kids that have been playing grade cricket since they were 14/15. It's the same situation in Sri Lanka where school players break records set by the greats in the 80s 90s and when they come to club cricket and eventually international cricket, only some blossom. The only difference between Sri Lanka and Australia is that one country has some cricketers playing against men at an early age, the other has none whatsoever until they're 18 playing only club cricket.

  • on July 26, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    Marto played at Aquinas, same school as JL

  • PFEL on July 26, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    " Greg Chappell is adamant that quality young cricketers need to test themselves against men." - this strikes me as odd. Wasn't Greg Chappell the one who brought in the whole Under-23s and emphasis on youth development programs for young cricketers just a few years ago? Program which focusses on youth playing other youth and not against "men"?? Very, very contradictory.

  • LoungeChairCritic on July 26, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    It would be interesting to analyse how many private school kids versus public school kids in NSW make state under 17 & 19 teams. In WA, the Darlot Cup school system is totally dominant in producing underage state representatives, shield players and national players. Darlot Cup kids play on turf, generally have former grade or state players train them, go on oversea's tours and are scouted by under-age coaches. Darlot Cup schools also tend to have an excellent relationship with nearby grade clubs. Most private school kids play for grade teams when they have no Darlot cup commitments. As a slight kid, Chris Rogers was most definitely nurtured at both Wesley, Melville & probably Meulemen's (A family run cricket training centre wedged between Melville & Wesley). At between 15k to 25k per year Darlot Cup schools are not cheap. Mr Rogers made a good investment. I am sure he is very proud of what Chris has achieved in his career.

  • GeoffreysMother on July 26, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    Ever such an interesting read and set of comments. I think it is very similar in the UK. Whilst the gap between facilities and access to professional coaches is absolutely huge between state and private schools in England an increasing number of players are from state education. The E.C.B's funding of clubs to develop good coaching and facilities and state schools which acknowledge their need to feed in promising and enthusiastic players (especially from non cricketing families as helped). Yorkshire's, Lancashire's and Durham's teams, awash with young talent, are primarily state educated and from a club base, whilst Surrey and Middlesex (huge centres of population in an area awash with private schools) seem to rely on old men and imports. Don't let the guys dressed in Bacon and Egg at Lords fool you - they aren't the heart of English Cricket. And if you want a bit of 'mongrel' you would go for Bresnan rather than Finn.

  • craig1731 on July 26, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    I think this article drastically misses the point; shouldn't the message here be how lucky Australians are to live in a country where you don't need to come from a Public School to play for your country? The percentage of people who attend Public Schools (the number hasn't always been as high as 35%) seems to be reasonably comparable to the percentage of Test cricketers who have come from Public Schools over the last century. Here we are lambasting Public Schools for not producing more Test cricketers, and seemingly applauding, and aspiring to, an English system where only the elite have a fighting chance to play Test cricket? I am a former Public School student, but am proud to live in a country where a working class bloke from Western Sydney is our Test captain, and he didn't need a Public School scholarship or rich parents to get there.