Have pitch, will travel – Cricket Imagination Roadshow

Have pitch, will travel – Cricket Imagination Roadshow

Have pitch, will travel – Cricket Imagination Roadshow 300 180 Sportstec

Article written by By Allis Moss, a BBC Sport Online’s French correspondent. This article appeared on www.bbc.co.uk on Friday, 3 May, 2002.

“If W.G Grace could see this, he’d be turning three times in his grave,” says South African Mike Flockhart, describing the Cricket Imagination Roadshow that has been touring north-western Europe.

It reaches the end of the road in Paris on Sunday, a fun event for children while their parents are caught up in the weighty business of voting in the most controversial of French presidential elections.

The cricket roadshow idea for was dreamed up by Flockhart and Smuts, whose names have the ring of a comedy double act.

Flockhart has a background in biokinetics and biomechanics, while Bruce Smuts has a degree in training but both play cricket for their local club, Wordsworth, near Johannesburg.

“Kids are usually told to sit down and shut up – we told them to make as much noise as possible.” Michael Flockhart

They worked with the European Cricket Council for a year and a half to come up with a programme that would make the game fun for children.

And so far around 5,000 children, aged four to 13, have been given what for most is their first taste of cricket.

The secret of the roadshow’s success is the pair’s determination to put the emphasis firmly on enjoyment.

“The European Cricket Council gave us ECC flags which we ended up wearing the whole time as Batman cloaks,” laughs Flockhart.

“Our company, (Active Education) is about introducing sport in the most fun way possible.

“Because they (the children) had never seen a bat or a cricket ball before, we called on the imagination to revert to a child’s level.

“We introduce foreign objects in terms they can relate to like Pokemon or Harry Potter and the snitch.”

Their approach has certainly been a big hit.

“Kids were bowled over by it,” said Martin O’Connor, from youth development in Belgian cricket, where 1,530 boys and girls experienced the roadshow.

“They teach the kids very fast. It’s all go-go-go. I don’t think they’ve had anything in the schools like it before.

“They would take anything up to 500 kids a day. One day they did an entire school. They’re very high quality coaches. It’s loud music and super-hyped and away they go.”

Flockhart and Smuts use cricketech coaching aids and apparatus to help children learn to bowl and how to hit the ball straight.

It only takes 15 minutes to put down their artificial Flicx pitch and they are ready to start.

Now the roadshow, which began with talented youngsters at Bradford College in Reading, is about to make its final appearance in Paris.

It has already toured in St Omar, Chauney and St Quentin in Northern France and travelled through Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg – where Flockhart coached children who spoke at least eight different languages.

The Imagination Roadshow will also be part of the build-up to next year’s Cricket World Cup.

After Paris, a new roadshow will begin, heading down into Africa.

A different continent, with a variety of different cultures – just as well that cricket is a universal language.