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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Major builds bridges with cricket
Major Andrew Banks with a young Iraqi
Cricket fan Major Andrew Banks is spearheading the scheme in Basra
A Royal Military Police Major from West Sussex is spearheading a scheme to teach cricket to children in Iraq.

Andrew Banks, of Midhurst, is helping to bring the game to Basra Province to build bridges with local communities.

It is hoped the Royal Military Police (RMP) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) scheme will help to alleviate tensions in the area.

Major Banks, of 110 Provost Company, said it had stopped some children from throwing stones at soldiers.

And he has managed to get a lot of local support for the shortened "Kwik Cricket" version of the game.

Major Banks said: "Iraq has no history of playing cricket and I think the teachers were sceptical at first, as they see quite a lot coming from the West.

It's fantastic to see the positive aspects of cricket being used to such good effect in this difficult situation.
Oliver Mott

"But their scepticism was reduced when they saw the kids having fun.

"When we gave them the sets from the ECB for the teachers to use they seemed quite pleased."

It is also hoped the scheme might encourage some locals to report any terrorist activity.

'Excellent fun'

Major Banks said: "Something that runs through the sport is fair play.

"It would be very nice if the concepts of right and wrong were extended beyond the sports field.

"Maybe we have started something in Iraq. At least the children and their teachers were enthusiastic. But I don't think the Australians need to worry yet," he added.

Oliver Mott, of the ECB, said: "It's fantastic to see the positive aspects of cricket being used to such good effect in this difficult situation.

"Cricket, of all sports, is very good at teaching the benefits of teamwork and fair play at the same time as being excellent fun."

Brigadier James Everard CBE, Commander of 20th Armoured Brigade, said: "As a military commander in southern Iraq I had never dreamt that cricket would help to form a bridge between our two cultures so successfully."

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