ICC U19 World Cup: Debutants Japan looking at tournament as a learning experience

Debutants Japan don’t have any high expectations from the upcoming ICC U-19 World Cup and are only looking at the event as a learning experience, said Japan Cricket’s Head of Operations Alan Curr. Later this month, Dhugal Bedingfield’s side will rub shoulders against the biggest forces in the game at the ICC U-19 World Cup. Japan have been grouped alongside India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

And by his own admission, Curr said they are not expecting to upset a team like India, but only hoping to gain valuable knowledge from the experience.

“People might be surprised that Japan is playing cricket and there might not be a historic culture in the country, but that is not to say we can’t be good at it,” Curr said in an ICC release.

“We are not expecting to knock over India but we are hoping to come away with our reputation as a cricketing nation enhanced.

“A lot of people have said how great it is but we are not there to make up the numbers. We don’t expect to tear up any trees but if we can bag a win or two then that would be great,” he added.

Japan may not be regarded as a cricket powerhouse but a summer camp in August 2017 convinced Japan Cricket that there was sufficient talent and enthusiasm to build a U-19 team.

That came after four years of sweat, blood and toil in promoting the game after a structure was first put in place following an ICC grant for a targeted pilot participation programme.

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“Eleven of the boys that played in the qualifiers are able to play again in two years, which shows how far we have come. We are two years ahead of what we expected,” Curr said.

Japan ambitiously bid and won the rights to stage the East Asia-Pacific Qualifier last year, selecting a young group of players they were hoping to blood for 2021.

Japan beat Samoa by 170 runs in the tournament opener and qualified with ease, remaining unbeaten throughout. “If we can maintain the learning curve we are on right now then we will only get better,” Curr said.

“We only meet up four times a year and we have qualified for a World Cup. We knew we would have to do a lot of work with them.

“With the tournament being in January and February, which is in the middle of our winter and there are no indoor training facilities in Japan, we have had to get creative,” he added.

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