Cricket games can offer a lighthearted approach to PE and sport that can really reach out to primary school children. Crispin Andrews devises some interesting primary cricket games and activities

Contrary to what certain Australian and Indian cricketers might have you believe, cricket is a striking and fielding, not just a ‘striking’, game. However, the slanging matches and posturing machismo that has taken place Down Under this year provides teachers with an opportunity to take the sort of lighthearted approach to PE that children love.

Activity 1: The obnoxious weed!
Barrel-chested Australian batsman Matthew Hayden referred to Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh as an ‘obnoxious weed’ during a radio interview in the middle of the one-day series between the two sides, as in Hayden’s opinion the Indian player constantly annoys opposition players with his antics. Hayden also challenged Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma to settle their differences in the ring, earning bemused retorts about the state of the Aussie’s sanity from some Indian players. The ‘obnoxious weed’, of course, had the last laugh, dismissing Hayden in the first final as India went on to win the tri-nation series that also included Sri Lanka. As Hayden trudged off towards the pavilion, Harbhajan taunted the Aussie batter by doing a little shadow boxing with a team mate.

This game, inspired by the Hayden/Harbhajan conflict, tests children’s powers of concentration. Group children in threes – one in each three wears a coloured band and this player becomes ‘the obnoxious weed!’ determined to do everything in their power to upset the concentration of the remaining pairs of players on the other teams.

The remaining pairs of players seek to score points for their team. They have one minute to perform a skill related task – e.g. take as many catches between them as they can, bowl a ball into a target hoop, hit the ball cleanly to their partner the thrower. The obnoxious weed’s job is to put them off and can employ any tactics to this end as long as they don’t:

  • shout
  • touch either person or equipment
  • stand between the two players or in the way of the target
  • pretend to intercept the ball as it is travelling.

During the plenary talk to children about the creativeness of the heckling tactics employed and the concentration strategies used by the children on task. Talk about the importance of focus in sport and how similar strategies might be employed in the classrooms to minimise distractions.

Activity 2: Stop whinging and get on with it!
All through this Australian summer there has been nothing but whinging and moaning from both sides. Even the poor old Sri Lankans were drawn into things with the usual round of sneers and sarcastic remarks about the legality of Muttiah Muralitharan’s action rearing its head during the tri-nation series in which they were involved. In typically brash Aussie fashion, their Indian opponents were simply invited to ‘stop making excuses and get on with it’. No one on either side seemed prepared to take responsibility for their actions.

Naturally, everybody makes mistakes but becoming aware of the mistakes you make can allow children to improve their performance. There are several typical errors that youngsters make when trying to strike a ball and this game will work best when the children have some awareness of what they are. These include:

  • Spinning their head and upper bodies round as they try to clout the ball too hard.
  • Trying to hit the ball before it has reached them or after it has gone past.
  • Taking their eye off the ball at the moment the ball is about to be struck – this appears as if they are looking over the top of the ball into the distance in the general direction of where they intend to hit the ball.
  • Losing balance because they swing the bat without moving their feet to stay stable.

Children are placed in groups of four – each take turns at being batter, feeder and observer/wicket keeper, observer/fielder.

Each batter decides to deliberately miss the ball for one of the above reasons – they do it three times in the same way. The other three work out why the batter missed the ball and as they do so the batter has 30 seconds to come up with the most outlandish but relevant reason why they missed the ball in the way they did.

So if they don’t move their feet and lose balance, the ground beneath them might have unexpectedly been turned to tar by the sudden appearance of a very hot curry!

Or they might have tried to hit the ball too early because they were late for school the previous day and were trying to make up for it!

If they take too long to come up with something the others can shout ‘Stop whinging and get on with it!’

Activity 3: It’s all happening here at the…cricket ground!
With all the fuss going on Down Under, Australian commentator Bill Lawry’s trademark quote has been heard more often than usual this year. Yet when children are not actively involved in a team game like cricket (i.e. not batting, bowling or actually fielding the ball) are they aware of what is going on around them and, if not, does this adversely affect their performance?

The following game can be adapted for use with any striking/fielding game or indeed most other aspects of the PE curriculum. The idea is to encourage children to be more observant during the game as a whole and to focus on how they perform as individuals and as a group.

Set up a simple three versus three striking/fielding game. It can be played with players feeding the ball for their own team mates to strike through four different targets (use cones to make each target) to score runs while the fielding team attempt to stop this from happening. Each player gets four attempts and the team with the most runs at the end is the winner.

Tell each group that at the end of the game they are going to report orally back in the style of Bill Lawry (i.e. starting with “It’s all happening here at the… cricket ground”). Get each group of children to come up with a name for their own cricket ground.

Their report must include:

  • examples of good performance
  • areas for improvement
  • controversial moments.

This report can be focused around the skill lesson objectives for the lesson, so they might focus on accuracy of feeding, stillness of head and eyes on the ball while striking, field placing – whatever the objectives might be.

Get each team to play as an international team and every child to take on the name of one of their players – doesn’t matter if everyone wants to be Pakistan, England or Australia. Some might prefer to make their own names up.

Then if the flak starts to fly during the end of match report, it is Pietersen, Shahid Afridi or Helmut Von Kartofflekopf who has made a mistake or done something silly – not the children themselves.

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