Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/299

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By W. J. Ford.

The public schools are naturally regarded as the forcing-beds for amateur cricketers. Occasionally a shining light appears on the horizon which, has acquired its brilliance in a smaller school; but these may be regarded as outside the usual cricket system, as splendid though rare visitors. This is only natural: the expense of thorough training, of the ground and its up-keep, to say nothing of the difficulty of finding in a small school enough good cricketers to prevent the game from being in the hands of two or three, practically excludes small schools from any possibility of competition with their more favoured compeers. Hence it is to the big public schools that the universities and counties mainly look for their "young blood." At one time, say twenty or twenty-five years ago, Eton, Harrow, and Rugby had almost a monopoly in the matter—the Oxford and Cambridge teams were a sort of pocketborough for cricketers trained at these schools; but of later days the other public schools have followed their system of training with such excellent results that county and university elevens are quite cosmopolitan, and there are few schools of any note that are not well represented in first-class cricket.

Further than this, the private schools that feed the public schools are recognising the advantages that the young boy gains by early and careful education in the great English game; and most of them now possess good, well-kept grounds, a professional bowler, and masters who are proficient in the game and anxious to help in the good work. Hence the really crucial time of a youngster's cricket education occurs when he is drafted from a private school into a public school. If he has shown any real