Deventer hosts inaugural Bilingual School Cricket Challenge

Rod Lyall
Tue, Oct 9, 2012 10:02 AM

Deventer hosts inaugural Bilingual School Cricket Challenge
Salland’s ODI ground in Deventer was the venue for a first in Dutch cricket last month as pupils from eight schools contested the finals of the inaugural Bilingual Schools Cricket Challenge, with the team from Alfrink College in Zoetermeer going through the day undefeated to claim the title.

Playing eight-over pairs matches, the mixed teams of eight players again showed both great enthusiasm and a steep learning curve, and the games generally continued through a series of showers which would have driven most cricketers from the field.

The project, initiated by the national co-ordinating body for bilingual education in the Netherlands, the European Platform – Internationalising Education, had started late last year, when 35 of the more than 120 Dutch secondary schools which offer an English-language stream signed up for the Challenge, which would join public speaking, debating and mathematics in the Platform’s programme of interschool events.

Bilingual education is a rapidly-growing sector in the Netherlands, and it is significant that the initial approach came from the physical education teachers themselves, who were looking for a sport with an English-language base. The Platform then linked up with the KNCB to develop a framework which introduced cricket to more than a thousand second-year secondary school pupils.

Teachers from 31 schools, from Assen in the north of the country to Roosendaal near the Belgian border and from Vlaardingen on the outskirts of Rotterdam to Enschede in the east, took part in an introductory day on 3 February, during which Richard O’Sullivan, supported by a group of Dutch international players, took them through the basic skills of batting, bowling and fielding.

This very successful start was followed up by a series of regional clinics, organised by the KNCB and some of its member-clubs, designed to equip the teachers to give cricket lessons to their pupils. 28 of the schools made it as far as the four regional tournaments, held in May in Voorburg, Utrecht, Nijmegen and Deventer. The same format was used for all four tournaments, with further clinics in the morning followed by three rounds of eight-over matches in the afternoon.

With the emphasis on participation and enjoyment, many of the young players showed considerable natural aptitude, and in many cases there was a clear improvement in skill levels and tactical awareness as the day progressed.

The top two sides from each regional tournament qualified for the national finals, and the schools which made it to Deventer were: Alfrink College, Zoetermeer and SG De Nassau, Breda (West), ORS Lek en Linge, Culemborg and Cals College, Nieuwegein (Central), Maasland College, Oss and Over Betuwe College, Bemmel (South-East), and RSG Noord Oost Veluwe, Epe and Pius X College, Almelo (North-East).

The enthusiasm of both teachers and pupils has been unmistakable throughout, and the repeated farewells of ‘See you next year!’ from the former leaves little doubt that this is an initiative which will continue to spread awareness and enjoyment of cricket across the country.

For the KNCB and the clubs, though, the challenge is how to convert this initial positive experience into regular participation in a sport which has a profound need for sustainable growth. The Bilingual Schools Challenge is a key element in the KNCB’s ambitious Youth Plan, but it will take commitment, determination and inventiveness to ensure that as many as possible of those who have tasted the pleasure of cricket choose to make it a lasting feature of their lives.

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