World Cricket League October 1, 2008

Jersey begin Africa adventure

Matt Hague

Matt Hague

The Jersey squad arrived in Tanzania today full of excitement about the adventures that lie ahead. We have been talking about coming to play in this tournament ever since we qualified in May, particularly in the last couple of weeks when we have been meeting most days for training, so it is great to finally be here and I can’t wait for the tournament to start.

It was amazing on the journey from the airport to the hotel to get a taste of what life in Tanzania is really like. I, like many of the squad, have never been to Africa before; we couldn’t believe the amount of traffic, which meant we crawled along on the team bus, and the pace of life here seems different to home as well. It makes the island life of Jersey look like a rollercoaster in comparison. We have to play six games in eight days, so the tournament schedule is pretty tough, but I would love to try and see what Dar Es Salaam has to offer and experience some of the culture.

There were people selling all kinds of stuff next to the road. Somebody had even set up a mini shoe shop on the pavement – you wonder how they make a living – and there were lots of people at every traffic light trying to sell you all kind of different things. I think we’ll need to change some of our US dollars into local currency so we can buy some of the fresh fruit that was for sale by the side of the road which looked very appetizing and perhaps I’ll see if I can get some presents for the family as well from the street traders.

After checking into our hotel, which is located right next to the sea and only half-an-hour of all three venues, we went to our first practice session this afternoon, which we basically used to help recover from the jet lag and do some light fielding drills.

I’m looking forward to my first opportunity of seeing how the wickets play when we take on Fiji in a practice match tomorrow and examining what we need to adapt to the different conditions.

That’s not just dealing with how the ball bounces on the wicket, or the difference in the outfield in comparison to back at home, but looking at how we can adjust our tactics to local conditions.

Playing in Jersey it is quite common for a bowler to bowl his 10 overs straight through. I think the heat and humidity will make that a challenge for anybody to do in Tanzania, but until we’ve had the opportunity to experience the conditions ahead of our first competitive match on Saturday we really don’t know.

Being here at this level of ICC event really hits home how things have changed for cricket in Jersey. It is amazing to think that just three years ago our only international game of the season was against Guernsey.

Then when we became a member of the ICC in 2005 we had the opportunity to go and play in Scotland and Italy which was absolutely fantastic, but to think that a team of Jersey cricketers have travelled all the way to Africa, to play against countries like Fiji, Hong Kong and Tanzania, with a dream of progressing to Division 3 of this event in Argentina is unbelievable.

I think we have an even more talented squad than the one that played in Jersey, with the addition of some really promising youngsters which is a great sign for the Development Program that our Board has invested in so heavily.

At the age of 34, if we’re not successful in this tournament, I may never ever have the opportunity again of playing this level of international cricket, so while our youngsters are keen to make the most of their opportunities, the old timers in the squad don’t want this fairytale story of trying to qualify for the 2011 World Cup to end just yet! I quite fancy a trip to Argentina in January when the weather back home will be freezing.

With the experience of Peter Kirsten as coach, to help guide us through our African adventure, and a side full of confidence after our win at the European Championships Division 2, we’re a side ready for the challenges that the next fortnight will throw at us and I can’t wait for the real action to begin on Saturday.

Matt Hague is the Jersey captain

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo