April 27, 2008

Japan

Samurai swagger in genteel old game

Martin Williamson





Japanese leg spinner Kenji Murata at Fuji Cricket Ground in Fuji © Mainichi Daily News
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With the ICC World Cricket League Division Five set to take place in Jersey in May, the Mainichi Daily News has an interesting article on Japan’s preparations for the tournament.

Naoki Alex Miyaji typically opens the bowling for Japan, but that's not the only way the 29-year-old son of a Japanese father and Scottish mother bends his back on behalf of the game in this country. He's also the CEO of the Japan Cricket Association (JCA), an NPO entrusted with the task of promoting the world's second-most popular participation sport in a land where, for the majority, Cricket is the name of a fashion label.

Despite the iconic surroundings of the playing headquarters at the foot of the country's most sacred peak and bullet trains hurtling past at regular intervals, Fuji Cricket Ground is also symbolic of the state of the game's status in Japan. Its two pitches are among no more than a handful found throughout the entire country. And they're located about 150 kilometers from the center of Tokyo, making a trip there a costly effort in terms of both time and money, an even greater drain considering the core of the game here revolves around university student players.

Nonetheless, Japanese cricket is making inroads. Miyaji estimates there are about 2,000 senior and junior cricket players in competitions that include expatriate-centered and university leagues. JCA has branches in Kanto, Kansai, Hokkaido and Shikoku. Nationwide, almost 6,000 boys and girls have been taught about the sport.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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