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Page last updated at 22:26 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 23:26 UK

Shaw goes back to her roots


Nicky Shaw's top tips for cricket beginners

By Phil Mackie
BBC Radio reporter, West Midlands

On a blustery, sunny afternoon in Leicestershire a group of eight-year-old and nine-year-old girls are being put through their paces by a World Cup-winning England all-rounder.

Nicky Shaw, who was player of the match when England beat New Zealand in Sydney in March, has returned to her roots to coach the next generation of would-be England women cricketers.

"I was brought up near here in Earl Shilton and went to a local primary school and secondary school," she told BBC Sport.

"So to come back to the place where I learned how to play cricket is really important to me, to give the kids here the opportunity to do what I did, to go to a local club and then enjoy cricket through club and county."

This taster session is for children in years three and four at Newlands Primary in Earl Shilton.

To come back to the place where I learned how to play is really important to me, to give the kids here the opportunity to do what I did

Nicky Shaw

After a series of warm-ups they play a game of diamond cricket. It is a hybrid version of the game, mixed with baseball and rounders, which is designed to get as many children involved as possible and to be fast and furious. It teaches children how to hold a bat, to hit the ball, to throw and to catch.

"Cricket can be perceived to be a very boring game, but the kids just love it, especially with a role model like myself coming in for girls. To have a woman coming in and doing a sport that isn't recognised just for girls is brilliant."

After a mammoth autograph signing session, three girls are singled out for a little extra one-to-one coaching. Layla and Tanith, who are nine and Kelsey, who is eight, are given more tips on how to hold the bat properly and how to play some basic shots.

Layla is the most enthusiastic, saying: "I just like batting in big field areas so you've got enough room to run if you're a fielder, and to run around if you're playing."

Kelsey may even join a local club. "Really I just think it's one of the best games I've played now. I'll probably play it in the garden and probably go down to the park and play too," she said.

They may not realise it but these three girls are the future of the game.

This session was organised by the Chance to Shine charity, but there are hundreds of similar sessions taking place at schools and clubs throughout the country every week during the summer.

As a result of the investment in the game, more women and girls are playing than ever before, in the past year the numbers have increased by 49%, and the ECB estimates three-quarters of a million regularly play the game.

There are still issues about retaining those players when they get older, but it helps that cricket is a team sport where there are no restrictions on women playing alongside men. It is now relatively common for women to play in men's teams in leagues across the country.

Nicky Shaw and the children
Shaw and the schoolchildren during their training session

When England won the World Cup in March it was the culmination of a decade's worth of hard work.

In 2000, after they were ignominiously knocked out of the tournament in New Zealand, it was a very different picture. Then the game was overlooked, and still largely run by enthusiastic amateurs.

Now the women are treated on a par with the men. The resources at their disposal are the envy of other countries and other women's team sports.

Girls like Layla, Tanith and Kelsey will have plenty of opportunities to follow the game this summer. There's the World Twenty20 tournament and then an Ashes series.

If, as expected, England reach the Twenty20 final, they will play at a packed Lord's in front of a huge TV audience on the same day as the men's final.

Clare Connor, the former England captain and now head of the women's game, realises that a lot is at stake over the next few months.

"For the girls to show how good they are, winning the World Cup was essential," she said. "But now to go and impress and to show English crowds and spectators and live audiences how good they are, this World Twenty20 is at fantastic opportunity and a brilliant stage."

And if you had to bet on an England cricket captain lifting a trophy this summer, it may be worth backing Charlotte Edwards.

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see also
England women thrash poor India
11 Jun 09 |  Women's cricket
Women's World Twenty20 2009
21 Jun 09 |  Women's cricket
World Cup joy for England women
22 Mar 09 |  Women's cricket

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