A PUSH to grow cricket in the East Asia Pacific region is paying dividends with close to 300,000 participants across the various islands and Papua New Guinea now vying for elevation to the highest level.
The Australian Country Cricket Championships, currently under way in WA’s Midwest, is giving East Asia Pacific’s representatives exposure to quality cricket.
Players from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Samoa make up this year’s team.
Men’s coach Shane Deitz, who also coaches Vanuatu’s national team, said players faced unique challenges in their home islands.
“For example in Vanuatu, our problem is having crab holes all over the field,” he said.
“Also facilities are a big issue and that’s probably the most expensive thing and the hardest thing to get right.”
He said the championships in Geraldton this year were a great opportunity for player development.
“It gives the guys experience of playing cricket on good facilities, on grass wickets, which we don’t have in our country, and it just gives them the chance to play under pressure and learn the skills playing under pressure before going to the world cup or the world cup qualifier or world cricket league, which we play later in the year,” he said.
East Asia Pacific Development Manager Jane Livesey said the International Cricket Council’s vision was to be the most popular sport in the world.
“To do that we need to see cricket growing in all our members across the world, not just the traditional cricket countries like Australia NZ and England, so it’s very important that our developing countries are contributing to global cricket,” she said.
Papua New Guinea’s men’s team is currently ranked 15th in the world and pushing to be recognised at test level.
“It’s definitely within reach,” Ms Livesey said.
In 2016 Papua New Guinea opened the first One Day International-accredited facility in the region.
“Which means that they can now play ODI’s at home and they had their first ODI series against Scotland last year, which was very exciting and just opens up more opportunities for them to play high-level cricket in the region, hopefully host Australia or New Zealand in an ODI,” Ms Livesey said.
Cricket Australia’s manager of club cricket, Nick Hatzoglou, said the inclusion of the EAP team helped lift the overall quality of the championships while increasing cultural interaction for everyone involved.
“We also take great joy in knowing that we’re cricket in the Asia Pacific region,” he said.