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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 16:16 GMT
Cricket Idol heads for Lord's
By Scott Heinrich

If you have ever watched top-level cricket and thought, I could do that, you might want to make your way to Lord's next month.

Devon Malcolm
I'm really hoping we can identify some more Devon Malcolms as a result of running this programme
LCCC chief exec Neil Burns

Professional cricket wannabes will be queuing up to enter a nationwide talent search organized by the London County Cricket Club.

Founded in 1899 by the legendary WG Grace, LCCC was re-launched in 2004, the centenary of the club's last fixture in first-class cricket.

With Pop Idol 4 Cricket, the club is staying true to Grace's vision of giving "invaluable first-class match experience to many cricketers who could not otherwise get it".

It is doubtful the former England captain envisaged such a brazen vehicle for his dream.

But in this age of reality TV talent quests, cricket is inevitably following suit, minus the cameras.

The contest will take place on 12-15 April with spin and pace bowlers aged 16-25 bowling two overs each at a professional batsman.

Those who take the eye will be back for the final on 24 April, with the cream of the crop chosen to attend a series of development workshops.

The London County Cricket Club was founded by WG Grace in 1899

And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - besides the prospect of a professional career - is a game against the MCC under the captaincy of West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards.

"We're looking for people of all backgrounds, particularly late-developers," LCCC chief executive Neil Burns told Radio Five Live.

"We want to encourage people who come from ethnic backgrounds and disadvantaged communities within the UK.

"Anyone who thinks they are good enough to be a professional, and think they can help put England on the map and beat Australia one day, we want to see them."

As well as getting Richards on board, Burns has recruited television news presenter Sir Trevor McDonald as LCCC's president.

On the judging panel will be Jack Birkenshaw, the former England Test player who coached Leicestershire to two County Championship titles in the 1990s.

We want to keep things as simple as possible, so people can just pitch up and show what they can do
Neil Burns

He will be joined by another ex-England player in Devon Malcolm, whom Burns holds up as prototypical of the talent he hopes LCCC's nationwide search will attract.

"Devon is a great success story of English cricket in the last 25 years," Burns said.

"He is someone who came to England as part of an immigrant family in Sheffield and someone who went on to take over 1,000 first-class wickets and show just what could be done.

"I'm really hoping we can identify some more Devon Malcolms as a result of running this programme."

As gimmicky as Pop Idol 4 Cricket intrinsically is, it appears LCCC are genuinely intent on finding and nurturing young talent.

"We want to keep things as simple as possible on the day of the contest so people can just pitch up and show what they can do," Burns explained.

"But over the summer those who have shown they have the potential to be fast-tracked straight into professional cricket, we'll be able to put them into county cricket through our contacts.

"Those who aren't quite ready and need a bit more developmental work, they'll be part of our mentoring work with monthly workshops to attend."

So what have you got to lose?


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