London: Six young and gifted cricketers from China will spend the summer here, working with British coaches to learn the tricks of the trade and to inspire other young Chinese to play the sport.
Their hosts will be a charity called Capital Kids Cricket (CKC), whose dedicated coaches have taught more than a million inner-city children the skills and thrills of the game.
"If these trainees are able to be further developed as cricketers thanks to CKC, it will be a major boost to them, Chinese cricket and, I hope, the game as a whole," said Syed Ashraful Huq, chief executive of the Asian Cricket Council.
The six Chinese youngsters, three men and three women, have already shown themselves to be cricketers of outstanding potential, Xinhua reports.
Zhang Yufei and Li Jian are both all-rounders with international experience in Bangladesh and Pakistan, while Song Yangyang is a specialist batsman and the current Chinese U-19 captain.
The three women, Huang Zhuo, Zhou Haijie and Yu Miao, have graduated from Shenyang Sports University and have international exposure under their belt.
"These young cricketers will benefit from playing in England," said Huq.
Although cricket is Britain`s national summer sport, its survival at school level in heavily populated inner-city areas was under severe threat when CKC was launched 22 years ago.
Since then, the game has been restored to the curriculum of more than half of London`s 2,000 state schools. Its formula has been reproduced in many other cities.
The charity`s Asian initiative was the brainchild of Shahidul Alam Ratan, a former Bangladesh international wicketkeeper who is now CKC`s international development manager.
"Although this work is outside our usual geographical territory, it is a huge privilege to be asked to boost the growth of Chinese cricket," said Haydn Turner, CKC`s founder.
"We have undertaken to pay for accommodation and other living expenses for these gifted cricketers in London and help them develop their coaching and playing skills.
"China is a key center in the development of international sport and the establishment of cricket there would go far towards guaranteeing its growth throughout the rest of the world.
"We very much hope that commercial sponsorship from firms both in China and Britain will enable us to turn a one-year initiative into an enduring campaign."