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Fit for Yorkshire

Back in the home country, Keith Fletcher, England's ex-manager, has often been quoted as saying "we have 18 academies", referring to the way the first-class counties nurture young players.

Steve Oldham, Yorkshire's director of cricket and founder of the county's academy in 1989, agrees. But then he would, given the performance of Darren Gough, England's brightest star until an injured foot forced him home before the last two Tests. Darren was a product of Yorkshire's academy, and got there through the usual club system.

"He always had ability, but he wasn't the best cricketer at 16. But a lot can happen between 16 and 20 - and the game needs more than technique: it requires guts and intelligence. And it's no coincidence that the better players are the fittest."

So Yorkshire and Adelaide share the fitness obsession. The county recruits about 14 youngsters for a season of specialised training at the academy which lasts from May to September. Like their Australian counterparts, they carry on with their education and have lectures in law, drug abuse, finance and dealing with the media. And they are treated as staff with wages ranging from Pounds 110 to Pounds 160 a week depending on their age. They play two- to three-day fixtures with the MCC and the Minor Counties. All this costs around Pounds 90,000 a year which comes from sponsorship, YCC support and the local council.

Yorkshire also wants to inspire a liking for the game in young children. It is spending Pounds 20,000, with help from Nestle and Sportsmatch, to work with 250 primary schools. Pupils are encouraged to play Kwik Cricket, or just learn basic skills.

The Test and County Cricket Board, based at Lord's in London, is promoting Kwik Cricket. About 100 volunteer co-ordinators help teachers to introduce the game in their schools and a lucky few children get the chance to demonstrate their skills at Lord's during a Test match lunch break

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