By Anton Lloyd-Williams & Dave Lollback
In their 7 July 2012 edition, Mainichi Shimbun newspaper ran a feature on cricket in Chiba featuring the Sharks very own Chris Thurgate. The original article in Japanese can be seen in PDF form here, or if you prefer, Dave Lollback has translated the entire thing which you can read below:
Cricket continues to expand
“Boso League” starts for juniors
Chris (left) teaches kids cricket – (photo: Chris Thurgate)
Player numbers for cricket, a sport originating in England, are steadily rising despite low awareness of the sport in Japan. This year saw the start of the “Boso League” in Chiba, a tournament involving three teams for kids of primary school age, with matches being played on 7 July at Ichihara Sporec Hiroba in Kikuma, Ichihara City. Chris Thurgate (38), an English conversation teacher residing in Oami Shirasato-machi who has devoted himself to cricket development and helped to establish Chiba Prefecture’s first club team, reflects that he “cannot quite believe that cricket has developed so much in Japan.”
Cricket has spread across the globe since the 17th century principally through former British colonies, such as Australia and India, and is considered to be a progenitor to the sport of baseball. As with baseball, defense and offense are divided into a pitching side (pitchers are called “bowlers”) and a batting side. The batter hits a ball “bowled” by the bowler, and the two sides compete for points (“runs”) in turn.
Cricket is a popular summer sport, and Chris also would enjoy playing the sport with his friends. Chris was keen to continue playing cricket after coming to Japan in 1998, and came up with the idea of starting a team. In April 2003 he was instrumental in the formation of Chiba Prefecture’s first cricket club, the Ichihara Cricket Club (currently Chiba Sharks Cricket Club).
The new team started with about ten players, but initially struggled to increase numbers. As a result of running classified advertisements in English-language newpapers and free magazines and Chris striking up conversations with other foreign-looking people in trains on his way to work, the club eventually grew to over 20 members, including a number of Japanese members, and two years ago the Chiba Sharks won the Japan Cricket League for the first time.
Cricket is one of the world’s largest ball sports by playing population, coming second only to soccer, and there are an estimated 3,000 cricket players in Japan. With the aim of offering kids the opportunity to experience cricket from a young age and make new friends through cricket, Chris started a junior team that is active mainly in Oami Shirasato-machi and Togane City and that he coaches while also teaching English conversation.
While disappointingly there are still no cricket grounds in Chiba, the Japan Cricket Association (JCA), a non-profit organization, also visits primary schools and continues to conduct promotional activities, and through its efforts has succeeded in holding tournaments for junior teams.
Chris hopes to see cricket develop further in Japan, asserting the he wants to “create an environment where cricket can be enjoyed just like soccer, baseball, or any other sport.”
(Original text: Koichi Ogino) (Translation: Dave Lollback)
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