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England players go back to school

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Adam Mountford | 12:34 UK time, Monday, 1 March 2010

It is one of the sad parts of modern touring that cricketers don't often have much of an opportunity to get to know the places where they are visiting.

Partly this is because of modern scheduling , where most of the time players only get to see airports and cricket grounds as fixtures are packed together as tightly as possible, and partly of course because of concerns about security.

So it was great to see several members of the England squad making the trip to the Sher-e-Bangla Primary School in Dhaka and for a very good cause.

Since 2006 the England cricket team have been involved with a campaign called "Cricket against hunger" working alongside the United Nations World Food Programme. It aims to highlight the work being done across the world to help improve particularly the lives of young people.

Eleven members of England's touring team were at the primary school firstly to help distribute nourishing biscuits provided by the World food programme and then to play a special game of cricket against the school children.

I managed to grab a word with England bowler Ryan Sidebottom whilst he was on the outfield during the game and he told me things were not necessarily going England's way. "We're getting smacked everywhere, lots of fours and sixes. I hope things improve for us on the tour!"

Ryan Sidebottom throws a ball to a girl during the visit to the school. (Pic: AFP)Ryan Sidebottom throws a ball to a girl during the visit to the school. (Pic: AFP)

But despite the challenges of the match against the youngsters, Sidebottom said the visit had left a lasting impression on him.

"It's great to be here - very humbling and a real privilege," he explained. "As England cricketers we can sometimes live in our own bubble and be a bit selfish but this is a fantastic occasion, a chance to put smiles on faces. We feel very special, many of us have families and it makes you realise how lucky we are at home."

John Aylieff, the World food programme representative in Bangladesh, gave me an idea of the sort of issues being faced here.

"There are 60m people here who are hungry , that's about the population of the UK. Most of the kids at this school come from slum areas and will at best eat one meal a day," he said.

By giving these biscuits we are at least giving the kids a breakfast and encouraging them into school so they also get an education."

Aylieff says that despite the problems here, he is very impressed with how people are coping.

"They show great resilience and spirit and there's nothing like cricket to help keep spirits high. For many of the kids at this school this cricket match against England will be the highlight of their whole lives. We work with a motivated government here and lots of other agencies and together we are making a huge difference," he explained.

One of those agencies is the UK aid programme and its Bangladesh head Chris Austin, a keen cricket fan himself, was also at the school. "In Bangladesh 50 per cent of the children under five are malnourished," he told me.

"They won't grow properly, they won't learn properly. Plus there is a seasonal problem between rice crops as well as a growing population expected to reach over 200m soon in a country the size of the UK. But Bangladesh can feed itself and has impressive strategies for coping for example with climate change issues. We are just here to help them implement them."

At the end of the match hundreds of the children, who had been cheering enthusiastically on the sidelines, were allowed to run on to the field to get autographs signed by the England players. It was an amazing sight to see for example six-foot plus Stuart Broad towering over dozens of youngsters as they surrounded him on the outfield.

One of the students, Ruhul, who had been involved in the game summed up what the day meant to him. "It's a dream come true to play with these cricket stars - I'll never forget today," he said.

You'll be able to hear my special report on England's visit to the Shere-e-Bangla school during the interval of Tuesday's second one-day international in Dhaka.

We are on the air at 0745 on 5 live sports extra and Radio Four long wave with regular reports over on Five Live and the text commentary of course here at And you can see more of England's school visit and other pictures from behind the scenes on the TMS Flickr site.


  • Comment number 1.

    The obsession of the world cricketing bodies with packing even more cricket into an already overcrowded schedule not only impacts on the quality of the cricket but the personal development opportunities such as these.

    The true power of cricket knocks T20 for 6....

  • Comment number 2.

    Children and youth are the future of the Planet. The Gentleman's Game is a big attraction in the subcontinent. International cricketers can certainly inspire the young minds to aim high. Fine gesture by the England cricketers in Dhaka. Nice blog by Adam.

  • Comment number 3.

    That's the best Sidey's bowled for a while.

  • Comment number 4.

    I find the visit of some england players to these schools and areas as highly patronising, it really is a photo shoot for these players as i believe none of them give a damn about these Bangladeshi people or its children, its like when the English rugby players go to south africa and visit the townships for another photo shoot opportunity, it really smacks of arrogance towards third world people, how comes there is always a film crew out there to capture the moment, if you ask me they are using these people to upgrade their image only.

  • Comment number 5.

    I personally find this visit by some of the England cricketers as very patronising and arrogant as the article says this is the highlight of their lives having england visit them, in later years this will be their cherished memory, it reminds me of the rugby lions touring team who always manage to visit a black township when they tour for another photo shoot, to me it seems like you are just there to laugh and belittle these people with your western values as if you can imagine what they are going through.

  • Comment number 6.

    The visit isn't half as patronising as you've just been, rgomez. 'Highlight of their lives', 'what they are going through'? Have you been to Bangladesh - they're all human beings just like those in 'the West' even if they're supposedly 'not growing or learning properly' as Chris Austin dares to suggest. In a month's time, meeting those great men Broad and Sidebottom will have all but faded from their memories. (And your comments are slanderous towards the England team.)

  • Comment number 7.

    Damned if you do and damned if you don't seems to be your attitude 'rgomez'.

    At home or abroad (in this case especially so) there is no better feeling than seeing a child enjoying sport and losing themselves in the moment. Be you a parent, coach or someone lucky enough to earn a living from the game.

  • Comment number 8.

    i appreciate the comments given by cowbatlaunch and hainba, i stand by what i comment on after all these cricketers are being well paid to tour bangladesh but what i find hard to take is this english arrogance towards the sub continent as they have to rely on western aid for survival, you dont own India or any other part of south east asia anymore but the england cricketers always seem to represent members of the empire using certain people for a papparazzi photo shoot to show we care about these people, it gives false hope to the locals and how does signing autographs and playing cricket help them, you can not eat an autograph can you, anyone please feel free to comment

  • Comment number 9.

    Indeed the players are being well paid to tour, probably more for a single game than some people will earn in a lifetime, putting it into context. They are not forced to leave the tour hotel, but they do.

    This visit was to support the United Nations World Food Programme not a UK aid organisation.

    The press maybe following the players or invited by the UN WFP. Eitherway IF one person then contributes to the aid effort the visit would surely have been worthwhile. This only supplements the good work of the Bangladeshi's themselves.

    On the subject of autographs nowadays autographs in this country are disposable. I remember treasuring an autograph of a famous footballer back in the early 80's. I guess these children feel the same way I did for a while....

  • Comment number 10.

    I think that is a very short-sighted comment, Rgomez.

    The whole idea of the visit is that the players raise the profile of the relief effort in Bangladesh. Just the fact that we are having this discussion means that we are thinking about the situation in Bangladesh.

    Those biscuits could have been distributed by anyone; but simply by having the cricketers and press there massively raises the profile of those making the effort to feed this starving nation. And the children get to have a great time meeting the players, which brings a little fun for them.

    What on earth this has to do with us "owning" India or any other part of the world completely escapes me. It is very important that sports stars from every country make visits like these, if only to remind those of us that live privelidged and comfortable lives that there are people out there that need our help.

  • Comment number 11.

    great to see the england team visit the school children and givethem some biscuits to eat. It will be very encouaging for every visiting team to pay a trip there and help the economically backward children with their lending hand

  • Comment number 12.

    rgomez - you really do have a chip on your shoulder, don't you? It reminds me of the bloke I met who still hate the Germans and Japanese because of the war, and that strange idea of some Americans that Britain is still a colonial power. The world had moved on.

    Personally, I will always be happy to see media personalities doing their bit to help show us that the world isn't a comfortable place for everyone in it. One day, it might just help us to changing it for the better. As someone said earlier - if it makes one more person aware of the issues, then it is a good thing.

  • Comment number 13.

    rgomez maybe your comment was meant to just stimulate debate on the topic.

    the fact as has been highlighted already is that when the high profile sportpeople visit these areas it also raises the plight of the people hence we donate more. The UN uses well known celebrities, why do you think that is? Maybe the UN is now on the path of recolonising the 3rd world countries on behalf of the West.


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