Developing on the fast track at Durham
Paul McGregor - 11 January 2021

In the football bastion of the north east of England cricket in schools and clubs is making a healthy comeback thanks to the efforts of the Durham Cricket Board Development Officers Nick Brown and John Windows.

Brown and Windows have achieved encouraging results at the Riverside in the fightback against soccer. In an interview with CricInfo, Brown stressed that both the club and the Development Board need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to introduce young people to the game, and to enable the latent talent out there to reach its full potential. This applies to both boys and girls and with the latter in mind Pauline Peel, the ECB women's cricket development officer for Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria, shared an office with Brown and Windows.

Initiatives like a winter Under-14 Floodlit Tournament have been successfully staged, with 30 clubs from Durham entering teams. Also the Batting for Literacy Success project was seen as an innovative and successful way to get cricket into the school day and also introduce local youngsters to the excitement of international cricket at the Riverside. 80 schools entered the project, which aimed to help develop literacy skills by designing a programme for the successful One Day Internationals staged at the Riverside in 2000.

Brown said: "There is no doubt that Lottery Funding has been an important catalyst for development. The funding has enabled more coaches to be active on improved outdoor and indoor facilities with young people from primary through to secondary schools. Every effort is made to ensure that youngsters are placed with a local club, and if they wish into county age squads.

"We try to bring them on from Kwik Cricket to real hard ball cricket. Not everyone will reach first class standard and nor do they want to," Brown said. But he also emphasised the importance of a clearly defined pyramid to mirror the aims and objectives of the national ECB initiatives. "Talented players such as Paul Collingwood and Melvyn Betts have come through the Durham system, and these can be role models for youngsters.

With four Durham players currently touring India with the England Under-19 squad, Durham must have got something right. "A key is to harness the tremendous enthusiasm up here for cricket, "Brown concluded. With around 200 schools taking part in one or other of the Durham-inspired projects, it's no wonder that the Sports Council identified cricket as the only sport that was increasing participation in Durham's Primary Schools in 2000.

The trick has been to join the resources of the County Board to those of the ECB. Durham lends its resources as appropriate, and players like Neil Killen and Simon Brown are always popular with schools.

It was once said of Yorkshire that when they did well so did England. Will this one day be said of the fruits of the development programmes in Durham?

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