Former England captain Michael Vaughan takes cricket back to school in Bradford

In the shadow of a cricket pavilion in suburban Bradford, a question and answer session had been planned with Michael Vaughan, but everyone’s question was the same: will you sign my bat, please?

Michael Vaughan at the Karmand Community Centre in Bradford, with hundreds of children from different schools across Yorkshire.

In what would have been perfect whether for playing the game, the former England captain obliged, 240 times over, using a Sharpie pen so as not to smudge the orange plastic.

On the last day of National Cricket Week, children from across Yorkshire in their last two years of primary school had been given the day off to play a sport that is no longer part of the curriculum but remains the quintessential English “summer game”.

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The Yorkshire Cricket Festival had gathered boys and girls with an aptitude for the game, from Bradford, Harrogate and Sheffield, on the promise of a free bat and the chance to practice their skills under the watchful eye of Vaughan and the former England player, Danielle Hazell.

The Yorkshire Cricket Festival at the Karmand Community Centre in Bradford

The plastic bats did not emulate the thwack of leather on willow, and the cricket whites of old had been replaced with Yorkshire Tea t-shirts, in deference to the event’s sponsor. But in other respects, the timeless traditions of the season were intact. Boys practiced their overarm in the nets as they waited for their autograph and their turn at one of the coaching workshops around the ground.

It was the sort of thing there should be more of in schools, Vaughan suggested.

“Given the problems of health and obesity we have today, an hour a day should be the minimum requirement for kids in school to stay active,” he said. “It’s as important as English or maths.”

There had been no week-long festivals when, as a youngster, he pitched up to watch Yorkshire playing at Sheffield. During the tea break, he was practicing on the outfield with his friends when the county’s head coach spotted him. The encounter led eventually to his 16 years in the first team.

The concentration of the game in just a few venues had reduced the chances of such a thing happening again, Vaughan said.

“I’m big believer in county cricket travelling around to the different parts of Yorkshire. It creates a festival feel for that town for that week.”

A fortnight ago, his parents had been to see the first championship match since 1890 to be played in York.

“They said it was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It brought back memories of when I was playing at Harrogate, Middesbrough and Scarborough. County cricket do that a lot more of that.

“Why wouldn’t you want to take the game around the whole county and give today’s kids in Sheffield an opportunity to see
the players? It’s difficult to travel to Headingley all the time.”

Ms Hazell, who is 31 and from Durham, said: “There was no cricket at all in schools when I was their age.”

National Cricket Week, organised by the charity Chance to Shine, is an annual event that lets around 500,000 children enjoy a week of cricket-themed activity in the classroom, the playground and in their communities.

Yesterday’s event, at the Karmand Community Centre in Bradford’s Barkerend district, was part of a drive to inculcate cricket in the school agenda through themed lessons, and by using its techniques to develop physical skills.