Monday, 2 January 2017

Guess Who's Back?

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned; it has been 2.5 years since my last confessi.....I mean post.

It would seem somewhat blithe to put this down to simple forgetfulness, so I hope that perhaps laziness will suffice as an explanation.

In posts gone by I have often promised to pipe up more frequently, fear not, there shall me no more such grandiose claims. Instead I shall simply say that I am not quite sure what form this blog will take in its latest edition, or how often I'll sign in to say hello, but from time to time I shall poke my head up above the parapet and say something if I think it is worthwhile.

Anyone still reading?

Amusingly, I don't really have anything worthwhile to say right now, so I guess I should quickly fill you in on what you've missed.

In the 2nd half of 2014, let's call that Year One, there was more Cricket Blast for juniors and a little bit of domestic travel when a rather tall friend of mine came and holed up in my apartment for three months. Here we are, hiking around Chuzenji Lake in Nikko.

Hard to say what really happened in Year Two. I caused a bit of a stir with a tweet I sent from the Japan Cricket account after a couple of fine ales on my birthday were left tasting sour due to England crashing out of the World Cup at the group stages. Got us a few more followers at least.

Aside from that, life got a bit easier initially as I was basically repeating what had been done the previous year, but that was boring so we decided to open up another Cricket Blast Centre, this time down south in Yokohama at the Country and Athletic Club where Cricket was first played in Japan back in 1863. That went OK and is still running.

I did continue my mission to see a bit more of Japan (and the world in fact); Hokkaido got a visit and I finally managed to get myself up to the top of Mount Fuji, which was actually pretty cool (there I am at the top). Internationally there was a trip to Vietnam, where the previously mentioned tall man had fled after his visa for my house/Japan ran out.

Towards the end of the year things got a little complicated as the funding for my position came to an end. What that ultimately meant was a job change to the very important sounding "Head of Cricket Operations" - yes, you should all bow down before me as I pass from now on.

So Year Three was a bit different. I made more of an effort to connect with the cricket community, get to know the players who the Blast kids will hopefully grow up to play with/against, as well as better understand all the domestic structures we want to improve.

I also had to oversee the National Teams, which has been both enjoyable and extremely challenging. The women travelling to Samoa and the men competing in East Asia Cup at home were major events which were great to be involved with, and extremely tiring. With a better understanding of the needs of the players and the longer term vision of the JCA I am confident these programs will be even better in 2017.

Additionally I attended the ICC Annual Conference for the first time, which last year was held in Edinburgh, and later did a two week placement with Cricket Scotland. Learned loads on those little jaunts, as well as on a "Leadership Forum" in Sydney a little later in the year organised by the ICC regional team. Met loads of new people and made lots of contacts to bounce ideas off in the future.

I have played less and less; two games in Year One, just one in Year Two and not a single one in Year Three (apart from a Drovers appearance back in London). I have instead done a lot more umpiring and under the impressive guidance of Chris Thurgate am now part of the Japan Elite Umpiring Panel...which may have been chosen by my friend Dhugal...but that's by the by. Here we are, looking rather sexy I'm sure you'll all agree.

While all this is going on the placements from overseas, which were such a central part of my early months here, have not only continued but increased in frequency. Too many to detail, but let's just say that we have not had a dud yet. All have been great, none shy of a beer and managing the placements from Cricket Victoria, Cricket Without Borders and the MCC continue to give me a huge amount of job satisfaction, and I hope some lifelong friends as well.

2017 has much lined up, I am, barring disaster, off to Australia (Bendigo) in February as Team Manager for our Men's team where they will compete in a World Cricket League Division Five qualifier, and in April/May we will host a Women's World T20 Qualifier for the region. Expect (or don't), to hear a bit more about those here in the coming months.

We will have a festival in September, which if all goes well will be combined with a match against a Top League Rugby side - still trying to get all of that confirmed, but it could be pretty entertaining.

My folks are also coming to visit in May, following on from my sister Helen making it out here in 2016, which means I might finally get out to Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and all those other places I have thus far failed to reach.

I think that pretty much covers it, no need to babble on longer than is necessary. I shall leave you with some of my favourite photos of 2016. A whole yen is on offer to anyone who can guess where all nine were taken...