World Cricket League Division 7 April 26, 2011

'Japanese cricket has come a long way'

ESPNcricinfo staff

Japan's captain Masaomi Kobayshi looks ahead to the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 7 that begins in Botswana next week where his team will face off against Nigeria, Botswana, Kuwait, Germany and Norway.He spoke about his his plans for the event and how the side has been preparing.

How has the side been preparing for WCL Div. 7?

We have been looking forward to this tournament since the completion of our previous tournament in Guernsey in 2009. We have undergone regular camps and established high standard domestic competitions to develop the players as a group and as individuals. The squad was narrowed down in January, and we have had two camps a month and individual training on other weekends. Unfortunately, as a result of the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11 this year, we were not able to have our scheduled camps or overseas tour that month. However, in April, we have been able to hold our scheduled camps and I believe that this is the best prepared that we have been for an international tournament. I'm delighted that we will compete at the tournament at our best. We have improved individually and as a group in fitness, technique, and tactically and we are all very much looking forward to the tournament.

What do you know about the conditions in Gaborone and do you think your side will be well suited to those conditions?

We understand the pitches are permanent hard wickets, which is what we are used to playing on in Japan. We also understand that the altitude is extremely high which is why we have been working hard on our fitness levels. We will be learning more about the conditions when we arrive, but this will not change how we want to play. Whatever the conditions, we will just believe in ourselves, express ourselves and play to the best of our abilities.

There are only four expatriate players in the Japan side while the rest are all native Japanese - how does your development programme work to have such a strong native Japanese element?

In the last 10 years, Japanese cricket has come a long way. New grounds, sponsors, junior development initiatives, and better coaches have all contributed to the development of cricket in Japan. The JCA has worked very hard for its fantastic achievements and that has inspired the players to work hard at training and performing well at tournaments. Encouraging youngsters to take up the sport as well as excellent coaches and improved facilities have contributed to our development and we are seeing players such as Raheel Kano who is amongst the first generation of players coming through the whole participation pathway established 10 years ago. The new generation of young talented players have created a dynamic team environment and we are all very excited get out onto the field and play.

Who are the players to watch in your side for this event? We`ve heard good things about Raheel Kano from the U19s, what does he bring to the side?

Yes Raheel is an exciting young leg spinner who has come through the participation programme. Like the other youngsters in the team he plays the game in an exciting way and expresses himself out on the field which is great. A number of youngsters have come into the side in recent times and have gelled really well with the experienced players. However, I believe that we are a well balanced team where everyone contributes, all 14 players and team management. Team work has been an essential weapon for us. Japan is not a team of one star player, but of a great group of players who are proud to represent their country, play as hard as they can, and bring the best out of each other.

You`ve obviously faced Nigeria before but what is your knowledge of the other sides in the tournament and have you played any of them recently?

We played Norway and Nigeria in the World Cricket League Division 5 in 2008. Our match against Botswana in that tournament was washed out, but we did see them play. We have heard about Germany and Kuwait from the Vanuatu players who played them in Division 8. All countries have good teams, but we will concentrate on our game plan and do our best.

Finally, the JCA have set up `Cricket for Smiles` - can you tell us a little bit about this initiative and also about what it means to you as a captain of the national cricket team and its importance?

As a group we were all upset and touched by the events of 11 March. Some of our players had family in the area and it was a very emotional time for them. We wanted to do something as a group and as an organisation to contribute to the people of the Sendai region in a positive way. A lot of schools have been wiped out and the kids involved have nothing. The idea of the initiative is to introduce cricket to over 200 schools that have been badly affected and provide them with cricket equipment.

It is upsetting to watch your county men struggle at a time like this and if we can help in anyway and use cricket to allow the children to smile again then I think it is great! We are looking for sponsorship for `Cricket for Smiles` and your support would be greatly appreciated. For more information of how to donate to this worthy cause log in online

All sports people dream to represent their country in their chosen sport and I was no different. The fact that I am now seen as a leader is even better. I am lucky enough to have done it before and every time I walk out onto the field as captain of Japan is a special moment for me.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Finn on April 28, 2011, 0:40 GMT

    Well done to them for actually trying to spread our great game through the country instead of hiring a dozen Indians or Pakistani ex-first class players to wear the Japanese shirt and play for them with no long-term plan for youth development. I hope they achieve promotion along with Botswana/Nigeria as they have done the same. Teams like Germany and Kuwait may win the odd league now but in five or ten years time they'll still be in division 6/7/8 whereas Japan may have advanced towards the top tier.

  • Jashanpreet on April 27, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    Great to know the Japan has taken the hard route of having home grown players and not expats. This route has been taken by some team who are now doing very good-PNG, Nepal, Namibia, Bermuda, Ireland, Vanuatu, Bhutan, Maldives, Kenya, Uganda, Over long term these would be the teams that will break the ranks and join the top teams About the WC, 10 team is absolutely ridiculous. Instead we should have atleast a 12 nation or a 16 nation, 4 groups followed by QF, SF.

  • sachin on April 27, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    @Meety, I don't think 10-team concept is any way wrong as long as there's a qualifier to give top associates something to strive for. 10-teams WC would be the best for the sport, at least for the moment, as there're a few teams in the top 10 that lagging considerably behind & thus, they need to be given some incentive to catch up with the rest & 10-team WC with a qualifier would do just that. Further, WC needs to be kept competitive, despite all the hoopla WC2011 was a snooze-fest, especially the group-stage, yes, there were a couple of good matches but 8 teams that everyone predicted would be there in QFs were there; matches involving minnows were mostly useless, it was egregious waste of resources by ICC so I'm quite pleased that they've decided to put up a better show in 2015, although I hope they'd've 2 groups 5 instead of outright round-robin of 10.

  • Andrew on April 27, 2011, 0:07 GMT

    @enigma77543/CricketStalker - the ICC by the mere fact this competition exists is doing a lot of good in terms of development. These teams are a long way from being good enough to compete at the W/C, but the 10-team concept IS flawed, & needs to be fixed, IMO.

  • sachin on April 26, 2011, 17:43 GMT

    @CricketStalker, some of these nations are only making progress because of ICC's funding & all the tournaments that ICC organises, these nations just can't grow without ICC's financial & structural support thus, the math is pretty simple, less profits for ICC = less funding to cricket's upstarts & less funding for the development of the game. Although I won't say ICC are made up of saints but believe it or not, ICC maximising their profits by having less mediocre teams at the International level is a GOOD thing for the LONG-TERM future of the sport. I'd agree though that there must be a qualifier & at least the 9th & 10th spots need to be put up for grabs.

  • Dummy4 on April 26, 2011, 15:31 GMT

    I admire the Japanese development of cricket. Too many teams, such as Germany, USA or Canada rely inherently on expats, and don't really seem to push the development route. Well done to Japan for not taking the easy route and calling a failed first-class cricketer from the sub continent to turn out for them. Making cricket popular in a country requires patience and dedication, the quick fix expat option will never make it popular. Other Associates/Affiliates take note of Japans method.

  • Nick on April 26, 2011, 11:43 GMT

    The Japanese seem to be making impressive progress with developing cricket, judging by the comparative number of expats in their team and the others participating. Let's hope they keep it up!

  • Ashwin on April 26, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    So sad to know that teams like these prepare so efficiently and give the game so much importance even when their land is struck by natural disasters. And the ICC can only think of making it a 10 team WC to earn more for itself and the board members. How can it be called a WC unless teams like this are given an opportunity to grow and develop. I'm not saying tht they're even good enough to be at the WC. Just that the option should be available for qualification.

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