Fiji beat Japan by 83 runs in the second round of the EAP Trophy, hence knocking out Japan from the WCQS Div III. Fiji will now join Italy, USA, Uganda, PNG, and one qualifier each from Africa (probably Zambia), Americas (probably Caymans) and Asia (this is a tough one!).
Fiji 166 (50 overs)
Japan 83 (41.4 overs)
This is the second performance by Japan where they were unable to score above 100. Though one can say that yesterday their target was by itself 75, they lost 7 wickets going for it, so they are maintaining an average of less than 9 runs per wicket!. I was perhaps naive to think that they could go ahead and perhaps qualify for WCQS Div III by upsetting Fiji; they seem to be in a lower league than Fiji. Now Japan will have to wait for 2 years to try to re qualify, and I think that they will be hard pressed by even the other teams in the EAP Cup next year to qualify for the next EAP Trophy.
Cook Islands: 75 (50 overs) – target revised to 73 off 42 overs due to rain
Japan: 73-8 (37 overs)
Japan win by 2 wickets. The scorecard is here
This is a pathetic display of cricket by both Japan and Cook Islands. Cooks I can understand, because they have only 20K people in that country. But whats up with Japan, chasing 73 after losing 8 wickets!!
At least Japan is still in with a chance to qualify. They will now have to beat Fiji in their next game, and then hope that either Cooks beat Fiji, or that game gets rained off. Both situations are unlikely, and in any case, Japan does not look deserving to go through to the WCQS Div III over Fiji anyway.
EAP Trophy game 1 – Japan v Fiji
Fiji won by 8 wickets
Japan 188 (50 overs)
Fiji 189/2 (42 overs)
Japan did manage to get Fiji pinned down at 22-1 in 10 overs, but Fiji took the game comfortably in the end. I am not surprised, because I was expecting Fiji to beat Japan, though I was hoping that Japan would be able to upset Fiji and make it to the top 30 cricket teams in the world.
Japan is still not out of it, though after this thrashing, I would not expect them to win over Fiji and qualify in the second round. I guess at the momment, what they need to do is to beat Cook Islands and underline their credentials as the second best team in the EAP region.
This is going to be a make or break tournament for Japan, who I think will try to one up Fiji and see if they can qualify for the WCQS Div III to be played in 2007. Fiji should on paper be too strong for Japan in this tournament, but the Japanese have been practising hard every week for quite sometime, and should be able to give a good performance.
27th June, Japan v Fiji
28th June, Fiji v Cook Islands
29th June, Japan v Cook Islands
30th June, Japan v Fiji
1st July, Fiji v Cook Islands
2nd July, Japan v Cook Islands
I would like to mention 5 countries that the ICC seems to be ignoring despite having huge potential, both interms of ICC's business of cricket, and also the spread.
Japan: I am baffled at why the ICC does not show the kind of interest in Japan the way it does in the US, even a 10th of that. First, lets get the thing clear about economy. Japan is the second largest economy in the world, and is half both in size and economy to the US. But unlike the US where the game is expat based, it is not so in Japan. Their national team comprises 90% of indegenous Japanese players, recently, they also had a predominantly Japanese club winning their domestic championship. Their structure of cricket is pretty good, and they are using their expats in the best manner i.e. to raise the standard of play for the indegenous players. This is unlike countries like USA, Canada, UAE and the other Gulf countries where the expats are just, well, raising the standards of other expats. Additionally, last year, they got the associate status, but their junior involvement programs are the thing that really impresses. Everyday they have some activity going on, they have taken the game to the schools. Their association website is one of the most frequently updated associate site, but the problem is that it hardly gets attention because it is in Japanese. Cricket is established in about 15 Universities in Japan. I do not understand why the ICC would go around and try to do project USA and the sorts, while ignoring Japan, which obviously has a lower standard of play at the momment, but a bigger indegenous cricket market and a better chance for the game to develop. Not to mention a population of 124 million people.
Italy: One of the higest number of junior involvement programs in the world in 2005 (5000 kids), Italy is now a division 1 team in Europe and will play in the Div 1 competition with the best in Europe minus England this year. One would be surprised that the team is not an expat based team either, though there are 3-4 expats in all the age level teams, 70-80% of the team is indegenously italian. Their national team however, is mostly from Italians who are based in Australia or South Africa. But thats their national team. Looking at their domestic teams, you will see the 70-80% number that I am talking about. Plus they have a good structure to give exposure to all age levels. 6th Richest country in the world, and a population of 60 million, I dont know why the ICC gives them a cold shoulder.
Greece (Hellas): Outside of an island, called Corfu, not many people except the expats play cricket in Greece. But the population of Corfu is 100K, 5 times that of ICC favorites Turks and Caicos, Cook Islands, and about 2 times that of Bermuda, Guernsey etc. And they are apparently crazy for cricket in the Island of Corfu, which is why, quite surprisingly, the entire Greek cricket team is formed of indegenous Greeks, and as far as I know, it has been like that for the last 10 years or so. But they do have infrastructure problems in terms of not having grounds etc, and the poverty level in Corfu being a little higher than the rest of Greece. Still, the ICC has a foothold in a small area of Greece, and they should ideally try to give them exposure and try to expand the game from there. ICC complains about the lack of cricket culture in non test playing countries, but here they have one that has a cricket culture albiet on a small Island, they can still expand from there if given the right resources and ICC help.
Chile: Currently, they have mostly expats in their team. But if you look at the amount of Cricket they organize for their kids, through schools and cities, if you look at the amount of tours that take place between Chile age level teams and Argentina etc, it is quite amazing, perhaps more than any other non test country that I know of. Also, looking at their U15 and U13 teams tells you how popular the game is amongst kids over there, though realistically it will not be more popular than football, but it is quite good that culturally they have taken onto cricket without any problems. Their national team currently lost out in Suriname, but the teams preparations etc got decent press coverage.
Malaysia: Ok, first of all, Malaysia lost only to Nepal in the Asia U19 qualifier, and we all know that Nepal was not really an associate team in the U19 WC 06 was it in terms of standard. They have the higest number of junior cricketers in the world outside of test nations. And they have been runners up in Asia for U19 level since 2004. They also have decent interest in the sport, and decent media exposure to live cricket. With about 11000 active cricketers in the country, and another 10000 who are intersted in the game but not active cricketers, it is funny to me how not only the ICC, but even the ACC doesnt put in some extra effort into them to raise their standard. Not to mention that they are perhaps the only associate country who have already given contracts to their players (ok, Bermuda has also done that now till the world cup) in order to make them play cricket all day. But they seriously lack the chances to play against better teams.
|Fuji Far East||24||20||83%||12|
|Tokyo Bay Districts||22||6||27%||15|
It is interesting to note that the champion team in the league is a predominantly Japanese team. The rest of the teams which I have not shown in bold are all expat teams, as some of their team names also suggest e.g. Lalazar is an area of Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
One of the problems that I see with the Kanto league is that the total percentage of Japanese representation is only at about 24%. When they have to select a national squad, they only have a choice from those 24%. Perhaps they need to get some more predominantly Japanese teams into the league. There are a few others, although I don’t know the details, but there are a few other University clubs that can participate in the tournament. Ideally, in their domestic set up, they should only have at most 50% of their players as expats. The basic point of the JCA funding this league as domestic cricket is to find other good players who can represent Japan, and also to give the existing players good practice. It is not meant for the fun and frolic of expats.
Some of these expat teams perhaps need to be kicked out of the league. In particular, I am talking about Paddy Foley. With 44 players and NONE of them being Japanese, it doesn’t look like they are doing something in helping out local lads. Additionally, in being at the bottom of the league, they are not providing the other teams, particularly the Japanese players who use these games as practice for international duty, with good standard opposition. JCA would be better off in bringing in a team of Japanese citizens in their place for future tournaments.
The other problem I see is with the Japanese clubs themselves. Wyverns is a club for Waseda University, I am not sure if this is a persistent club, or just a bunch of university students getting together and playing while they are at University and then leaving. If the players regularly play even after their graduation from the University, then it is great. There are some other universities also playing cricket in Tokyo, namely, Aoyama Gakuin, Chuo, Kieo, Senshyu and Tokyo Koka. Of these, at least Keio and Tokyo Koka were able to get some of their players selected in the Japan Universtiies squad in 2004, so their standard of play must be relatively high. I do not know why they are not playing in the Kanto league along with Wyeverns. If nothing else, then at least a couple of teams can be raised by combing all these universities.
A little word where this cricket is played in Japan. All the above mentioned teams, including universities and the domestic teams, are from the Kanto region (basically the area within a 100 mile radius of Tokyo). Its not much of an area in terms of overall Japan, but it covers a significant percentage of their population; i.e. 20-40 million people. Because of the proximity of all the clubs, it is possible to have a league at a much lower cost. The main towns in the region are Tokya, Yokohama and Shizouka.