The Japan Cricket Association is looking to establish centres of cricket in Kanto and then across Japan. The first target has been Sano in North Kanto and the next target is Chiba Prefecture in East Kanto. As a starter, a gathering, ‘a casual cricket party’, was held on Feb 11 at Globo Sports Centre in Soga, Chiba, to get to know each other and to later discuss the development of cricket in the prefecture. The Chiba Sharks were asked to participate and did the club proud with nine players, Chris, Nick, Vicky, Rishafy, Dave, Kazu, Taka, Kris and Nikhil giving up their day off to attend.
The morning session started of with a tournament of ‘Rapid Ball’. The Sharks were distributed among teams of coaches and members of the ‘Little Terns’ cricket club.
Rapid Ball is played in a futsal court, There are two teams of 4-5, one batting, one fielding. Each single batter has four tennis balls on raised rubber tees. The batter hits each ball in turn and then scores runs by running around (not between) the wickets set up behind the tees. The fielding team stays inside back half of the court until all the balls are hit. They then field them as a team and replace all the balls on top of the tees. Once all the balls have been replaced the batter is ‘out’. For our tournament any caught ball meant ‘out’. It was very fast and lively and it is clear the kids like their cricket.
After lunch we adjourned to a meeting room to hear the JCA’s approach to expanding cricket in Japan from Alex Miyagi. Also in attendance were parents and coaches from the ‘Little Terns’, JCA representatives and Miyakawa-san from the Kashiwa indoor nets. Alex explained that JCA planned to target certain areas in the Kanto region over time before expanding Japan-wide. He outlined that it is hoped to create grounds in the outlying areas of Kanto – Sano (north), Chiba (east), and possibly Akishima in the west. As of 2009-2010 the Sano area will be the home of two new cricket grounds that will also see use as grounds for the Women’s World Cup qualifying games. The work of people on-location in Gunma has also facilitated the development of the game there. The next target is Chiba.
There is a good possibility of a ground being established in Kogane in the near future. As for players, a small number of elementary schools have been introduced to cricket via personal contacts with teachers. Also a team, the ‘Little Terns’ has been established and one elementary school also has some players. This is all very small scale at present, hence this meeting of all concerned and possible participants. This is where the Chiba Sharks come in (it is hoped). It is the view of Alex and the JCA that it is vital that the grassroots Japanese participants make contact in a meaningful and organized way with the upper levels of the sport in Japan, that includes us, to ‘grow’ the sport. He envisions a structure:
JCL Teams (e.g. Chiba Sharks)
that would see players progress through the levels. He hopes that it is possible to have some coordination especially, and sooner than later, between the top and the bottom levels. Today was such an event whereby the Little Terns, a mixture of girls and boys, met and played with ‘real’ cricketers, again, that’s us Chiba Sharks, to both ‘coach’ and also perhaps instil in them that this is a sport that goes beyond what they know, and show that they can be a part of it in the future if they wish. Where possible Sharks player attendance at practices or events would be most welcomed. For our part, the Sharks suggested that junior players could make use of the Kashiwa nets and that Sharks could attend on a volunteer basis. Also, it would be a wonderful and perhaps encouraging experience for groups of junior players such as Little Terns and another Chiba-based school group from Inihano Primary School, to attend the indoor cricket games.
The aim of the meeting was to bring together these groups of cricket-minded people. It was interesting to hear about the hopes for the future of the game in Japan and Kanto and especially that the Chiba Sharks could play a role. Nothing was decided ‘officially’, of course, but we will be hearing more, in the future.
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