The England and Wales Cricket Board is hoping to win the “battle of the playground and the car park” with a new grassroots initiative pitched at youngsters and their mothers.
Launched on Monday, All Stars Cricket is aiming to give 50,000 children aged between five and eight the chance to hit a ball, take a wicket or make a catch.
The ECB is hoping its first nationwide, entry-level participation programme will entice a new generation of boys and girls to take up the sport, and perhaps persuade their mums and dads to get involved, too.
Cricket has lost about 100,000 regular players over the last decade but the figures for the last five years have been relatively steady.
Speaking to reporters in London, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said growing participation in cricket was his main priority.
Harrison said: “All Stars Cricket is about winning the battle of the playground and the car park, because that’s where mums come into play and trying to understand their role in what kids do in their free time has been critical.
“So the aim is really to deliver back to parents the best hour they can spend with their child over an eight-week period in the summer. If we can do that we’ll go a long way to starting that connection between a child and cricket.”
The first step will be for parents to register their children’s interest in taking part at allstarscricket.co.uk – in return for a cricket pack, which includes a bag, bat, ball, personalised t-shirt emblazoned with the England logo and a welcome video from Test captain Joe Root.
Children will then begin an eight-week programme, delivered through the 2,000 clubs that have signed up, with an emphasis on fun and learning the basic skills of the game.
The ECB recently received £7.6million from Sport England to help finance this initiative, while the ECB has put £4million of its money into participation programmes.
The return on investment for cricket is obvious for Harrison, who said research shows you are 11 times more likely to pay to see cricket if you play the game and it is 60 per cent harder to get an 11-year-old interested in the game than if you had reached them much earlier.