Cricket is a great game that attracts fans of all ages from all around the world. When I first became interested in the sport at the age of 12, I immediately started to pester my mum and dad about joining a cricket club, and before long, I was playing for my local team! If you are a young aspiring cricketer, or even if you’re a parent that is looking for a cricket club for your child to join, you may be wondering if you/your child is old enough to play and what types of cricket will be best suited to them. If these are the questions you have, then you’ve come to the right place! In this post I’ll explain how old you have to be to play cricket, as well as looking at the different types of cricket that are on offer for each age group.
But first, how old do you have to be to play cricket?
There isn’t really a certain age that you have to be to start playing cricket. In fact, you can introduce your children to the game as soon as they are able to hold a bat or a ball! However, the age at which children can begin getting involved with competitive cricket is usually around 5 years old. Beyond the age of 5, there are multiple different categories of junior cricket so that children of all age groups can compete against other kids of a similar skill level.
I’ll now take you through several different age groups and explain what children of that age should be aiming to get out of their cricket experience. We’ll look at some of the skills and equipment that they’ll require, as well as the types of cricket that they’ll be playing. Let’s get into it…
Cricket For 5 – 8 Year Olds
For children that are around 5 – 8 years old, the main aim of their participation in cricket should be to enjoy themselves and build the basic skills that they will need in the future. Skills such as being able to hit a moving ball with a cricket bat, throwing the ball to their team mates, catching the ball & bowling the ball overarm will usually be introduced in this age group, all of which allows the child involved to get a feel for the game. They will also be introduced to some of the basic rules of the game such as how runs are scored and how batsmen can be dismissed. At this age, every child should be given a chance to bat, bowl and field. This helps them to feel included and makes them more likely to want to return to play the sport again.
In terms of equipment, players of this age will not be using proper cricket balls, and as a result they don’t really need protective equipment. They will probably be using sponge balls or tennis balls, which are easier for children to hit, and not as dangerous. The only equipment that children will really need for cricket at this age is a bat (this will usually be a small plastic bat that is light enough for all children to swing smoothly) and some sports clothing that they can run around in, including adequate footwear like trainers! If your child is playing at home, then you may wish to purchase a set of plastic cricket stumps and a few sponge/tennis balls (it may be worth buying extra balls as they do get lose quite easily!)
What Teams Are Available?
Many cricket clubs will have under 7’s and under 9’s teams that children of this age can represent. At this age, boys and girls can often play together on the same teams, although this gets more rare as the children increase in age. Also, many schools will offer young children the chance to take part in simple forms of cricket in their physical education sessions. The games that young children of this age are likely to play are much smaller games which are less focused on keeping score than proper cricket. These games could be skill specific, like catching competitions, or bowling to hit the stumps, or who can hit the ball the furthest. They could also be small team games like ‘Kwik Cricket’, which is perfect for children under the age of 11.
In Kwik Cricket, there will usually be two teams of 8 players (but you can have teams of up to around 10 players). The team batting first will be divided up into pairs, with each pair batting for 2 overs (12 balls) each. The batting side will start the game with 200 runs, and their aim should be to add as many runs as possible to that total. Every time a batsman is out, 5 runs will be subtracted from the total and their partner will face the next ball from the bowler! Once a pair of batsmen have faced their two overs, they will swap with the next pair. Additionally, every member of the bowling team will have the chance to bowl an over. These are just the basic rules of Kwik Cricket – if you want to read a more detailed set of rules, click here!
Cricket For 8 – 11 Year Olds
The goals of cricket for 8 – 11 year olds is similar to the age group we just looked at. The main goals are ensuring inclusion and making sure children enjoy themselves when they take part. Children who have been playing cricket for a while at this age will have begun to get comfortable with the movements required to bat, bowl and field, so those movements will be further perfected during this period. However, a lot of children will be just beginning to play cricket at this age, so they will require basic level coaching. If your child is thinking about playing cricket in this age group, their sessions will probably involve the following activities:
- Learning how to hit the ball in different areas of the field with the bat
- Bowling accurate deliveries overarm with a small run up
- Taking part in catching drills that focus on high catches as well as low catches
- Taking part in fielding drills that involve retrieving the ball and throwing it back to a coach/parent
At this age, all young cricketers should still be given the chance to bat, bowl and field. Once they get older, they will be able to decide which cricket skill they would like to specialise in, if any.
At this age, young cricketers may start to advance in terms of the equipment that they use. They will have mostly moved away from using sponge balls and will use be using either rubber balls known as ‘wind balls’ or smaller sized cricket balls. Also, the plastic bats that were used in the lower age group will have been replaced by small wooden bats that are suitable for the height of each player. Due to harder balls being used, you will probably want to invest in some protective equipment for your child, including batting pads, gloves, an abdomen guard and a helmet (if real cricket balls are being used). Again, if you want your children to be able to practice at home, it may also be worth buying a set of plastic cricket stumps and a few balls to play with!
What Teams Are Available?
These days, most cricket clubs will have an under-9’s and an under-11’s team that children of this age will be able to join. Each team is likely to run weekly practice sessions and compete against other cricket clubs in weekly games throughout the cricketing summer. Similar to the age group we just mentioned previously, cricket matches at this age are not likely to be the same as the ones that we watch on TV. Instead, the games are likely to take place on a smaller field, and they will feature a smaller pitch so the bowlers don’t have to bowl the ball as far. The games will also run for a shorter length of time (around 12 – 16 overs per team) and be more focused on keeping all children involved and giving them a chance to participate and contribute.
In addition to playing cricket for a club, a lot of schools will have cricket as part of their curriculum, and therefore your children can get some cricket experience through that. If your child doesn’t have a club to join, and their school doesn’t run any cricket sessions, then you better start practicing with them at home!
Cricket For 11 – 17 Year Olds
This is the age range where cricket starts to get a little more serious, and kids start to specialise in certain cricket skills that they like best such as batting or bowling. If your child is a bowler, then this is the period of their career where they will be beginning to seriously increase their bowling speeds and levels of accuracy. They’ll also be bowling off a longer run up than when they were younger.
Batsmen will have the opportunity to play in longer formats of the game and therefore will be able to put together longer innings. In some leagues, batsmen will be asked to retire at a certain milestone such as scoring 25 runs or scoring 50 runs to allow other batsmen to have a chance to bat.
During this age group, children will make their final progressions towards using proper, full size cricket equipment. By the time most cricketers reach the ages of 15/16/17 they will be able to handle a full size bat and a full size cricket ball, and they will also be comfortable in full size helmets, gloves and batting pads. Due to the fact they will be playing with the harder cricket ball, any children you have that are taking part in cricket at this age will need to be fully equipped with all of the protective equipment, and if you want a breakdown of all of the different items that you’ll need – check my post here! Most games will require the players to wear cricket whites, although some teams may have their own coloured clothing.
By the time the cricketers reach the under 15’s age group, they will be playing on a full size cricket pitch (approximately 22 metres) and on a large cricket field which is about 55 metres from the batsman to the boundary. All girls teams competing at under 15 and under 17 level will usually use slightly smaller cricket balls and play on slightly smaller fields than the boys teams.
What Teams Are Available?
Between the age of 11 – 17, children will usually either be representing the under 13’s, the under 15’s or the under 17’s, and most clubs will have all of these options available. Most cricket clubs will run a weekly practice session for each age group, and will play a full game of cricket against a rival team either on a weekday evening, or on a weekend. These matches will vary in length for different leagues and teams, but the standard match length could be anywhere between 20 – 50 overs per side. These games will feature all of the same rules as the professional matches that we watch on TV!
Many popular cricket teams will often have ‘A’ ‘B’ & ‘C’ teams for each of the different age brackets to reflect the different levels of ability of the children in their ranks. For example, children who are very skilled cricketers will play for the A team, whereas children who are newer to cricket will often find themselves playing for the B or C team. The most skilled cricketers in each age group will usually get a chance to attend trials for the local county or state team. For example, I am from Yorkshire in the UK and many of the players I played with attended Yorkshire trials when we were younger! Trials like this provide a great opportunity for young players to get noticed and secure places at more prestigious cricket teams as they develop.
Open Age Cricket
Once cricketers move past the age of 17, they will no longer be a part of the junior cricket system and will have to enrol in an open age team. These teams will include cricketers that are a variety of ages. You will have some younger adults that are around the ages of 18 – 21, and you’ll also have more experienced players in their mid-30’s and 40’s. In open age cricket, the focus moves significantly away from participation and keeping people involved, and instead the choice of players, bowlers and batsmen simply comes down to who is the most skilled player at the position. By this age, most cricketers will have found a role which suits them within a cricket team, whether that be as a bowler, a batsman, a wicket keeper or an all-rounder. Open age cricket is about testing your abilities against other local teams, and improving your skills during your practice sessions.
In open age cricket, players will require all of the full size equipment that professional cricketers use. They will now be exclusively batting against a hard cricket ball, which means that each player will need to have all of the correct protective equipment in their kit bag. They’ll also need a kit bag that is suitable for carrying all of their kit around – click here if you’re interested in buying one of those!
What Teams Are Available?
Many cricket clubs will have several open age teams, sorted by the ability of the cricketers within each team. The cricket club I played for when I was younger had a 1st team (which had the most skilled players), a 2nd team, and a 3rd team. The 3rd team was used to give some juniors (mostly 15 & 16-year olds) the chance to get an experience of open age cricket against adults. Playing for the 3rd team against other adults while I was still part of the junior cricket system really helped to give me confidence and allowed me to test myself against a higher level of opposition. Juniors that are incredibly highly skilled could get a chance to represent the 1st team or the 2nd team, subject to the agreement of the player, the players parents and the cricket club.
Open age cricket gives clubs a chance to compete in various competitions, and as a result some matches will be played on weekday evenings and some will be played on weekends. Some evening games may be shorter formats such as T20, whereas weekend matches are likely to be longer – usually around 50 overs per side! Most games will require the players to wear cricket whites, although some teams may have their own coloured clothing. Evening games could feature a white cricket ball, and would require the players to wear coloured kits, while most games that take place during daylight hours will use a red ball and players will wear whites.
The most skilled open age cricketers will usually go on to represent their counties or their state teams such as Yorkshire in the UK or New South Wales in Australia. If they can then prove themselves to be skilled enough at the county/state level, they could have the opportunity to get selected to play for their country! This is especially likely to happen if a cricketer can show that they have a high level of ability at a relatively young age. For example, Joe Root’s talent was so huge at a young age that he was able to make his debut for Yorkshire at the age of 18, before playing his first game for England at the age of 22.
Sadly, the life of a sportsman is a relatively short one. Our ability to compete at the highest possible level of cricket usually occurs when we are in our 20’s and 30’s and beyond this, most of our cricket skills will decline over time. Although our physically skills may decline, our enthusiasm for sport like cricket does not, and there are a lot of older individuals that would still love to be involved in cricket. This is where senior cricket comes in. Certain cricket clubs provide opportunities for over-50’s, over-60’s and over-70’s to take part in local leagues and national competitions. These teams allow seniors to maintain friendships and old rivalries, as well as a good level of fitness and enjoyment!
Senior cricket matches will broadly follow the same rules as open age cricket and the professional game. Matches will usually be anywhere from 20 – 50 overs per side. The equipment used by senior cricketers will also be the same as lower age groups. Some players may choose to not wear helmets due to the fact that the bowling is likely to be slower, but in my opinion, it’s always advisable to have all of the protective equipment with you.
I hope this post has helped you to realise that there isn’t really a minimum age from which you can get involved with cricket. You can teach your child how to hold a cricket bat, and how to throw a ball as soon as they can walk, and as such they can begin building the skills that they will need to be successful in cricket in the future.
In my opinion, the earlier you can get your child involved in organised cricket, the better. A lot of cricketers that I know felt much more at home on the cricket field once they had been doing it a long time, and felt more confident in expressing themselves with their team mates and during matches.
With the right amount of hard work, a child/adult can enter into cricket at any age. However, the amount of hard work that is required will increase as you get older. For example, an 11 year old that is brand new to cricket will not have to put in as much time on the practice field to catch up with other 11 year olds as a 17 year old that is new to cricket will. By the time cricketers reach the age of 17, many players have developed their game massively and will be extremely competent. As a result, a 17 year old just starting out on their cricket journey will find it much more difficult to catch up! I got involved in cricket at the age of 12, and I made sure that I practiced at home a lot before I joined a team. This made the transition very easy for me, and I didn’t feel like other players were way ahead of me in terms of their development.
Basically, if your child loves cricket and has expressed an interest to play – get them involved early and let them really enjoy the game. They will then hopefully be motivated to work hard and develop their skills to be a top player! Good luck!