Monday, 6 February 2017

The East Asia Cup

I figure that if I am going to keep writing this thing then it may as well be informative about what I actually do over here in Japan. Hopefully not in a self-aggrandising way, but then I am pretty awesome.

Folks in Japan probably won't learn a lot from this piece, but feel free to read on should you have nothing better to do.

So last November Japan hosted the inaugural men's "East Asia Cup". I say men's because there was a women's version of the tournament in South Korea the previous year which was given the name retrospectively.

The tournament consists of four teams; Japan, obviously, then China, Korea and Hong Kong. In the men's tournament it is the Hong Kong Dragons, which is their all Chinese development side, but for the women it is their full side.

The idea for the tournament was really borne out of necessity as none of the four countries were playing enough cricket. I am not trying to be critical of the ICC here, but the fact is that between late 2014 and early 2017 our men's team did not have a single "official" cricket fixture.  As such we do our best to find opportunities for the team to get together and play; most often that is against touring club teams.

The women fare a little better, as they compete in the Asian Games every four years, and with ICC qualifying events taking place roughly every two years as well then it keeps their calendar relatively busy.

It was at one of those events that my friend and colleague Dhugal began discussing the possibility of playing more regular fixtures between the sides in the region. The idea marinated for a while and in late 2015 an agreement was drawn up between the four cricket associations and signed by all.

We in Japan took the lead on these conversations and proposed a number of different options, with the final agreement being that there would be a tournament every year and that it would alternate between being men's and women's events. The four countries would take turns in hosting over the next four years and then we would reassess where we were.

Since Korea had just hosted the women, Hong Kong had a packed schedule in 2016 and China did not have a suitable venue yet, it fell to us to host and so it was that the first men's tournament was put in the diary for 3rd - 6th November in Sunny Sano.

This was my first time as a Tournament Director and it was a phenomenal experience to try and manage so many moving parts. I've got a few mates who work in events and it really did give me much more appreciation for what they do for a living; frankly it's bloody hard work!

Thankfully the weather was amazing throughout, a good few people turned up over the four days, and we had quite a lot of folks watching on the live stream which we were using for the first time. By the time the final was played we had more than 18,000 watching online, which is pretty cool.

I was also balancing the job of Tournament Director with umpiring and I managed to cause a bit of a stir in the every first match (my long-awaited international debut) after giving our opening batsman out after he left the field of play without permission. It did serve to get us a bit of attention however, although I felt pretty bad about it at the time.

Now, those of you who were paying attention will have noticed that I said early 2017 was the next men's official fixture, which would be now. So next week we fly to Melbourne for a tournament in Bendigo where Japan will come up against Fiji, Indonesia, the Philippines, Samoa and Vanuatu with the winning team qualifying for the World Cricket League Division 5, which is the first rung on the way to World Cup qualification.

It should be a pretty good week and I am going along as Team Manager, my first time doing that too. I'm pretty confident my next entry will have a few thoughts on that. Until then...