International cricket comes to Bendigo this week, with the city to host the ICC East Asia Pacific Trophy.
Six nations – Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Samoa and Vanuatu – will play five games over seven days, with the champion team earning promotion to the ICC World Cricket League division five.
The six competing nations are at different stages of development.
Fiji cricket is riding the crest of a wave after the island nation’s under-19 team qualified for last year’s under-19 World Cup.
The senior team winning the East Asia Trophy and earning a crack at the WCL division five is an expectation.
“It’s exciting for Fiji cricket because we made the under-19 World Cup – the first time Fiji has had a team make the World Cup,’’ Fiji senior coach Josefa Rika said.
“Five of the boys who played in that under-19 team are playing with us here this week.
“There’s no second place here, we want to qualify and we think we have a squad that’s capable of doing that.
“If we play to our strength and execute our plans then we’ll put ourselves in with a chance of winning games.”
Rika said Fiji’s performances in Bendigo were vital for the game’s development in his country.
“We’ve set a great platform for youth development in cricket back home and the senior team making the next grade is vital for cricket in Fiji,’’ he said.
“We have some good young players coming through and we want them to be playing more international cricket.
“The best way for us to play more cricket is to get into the World Cricket League system. The higher division you play in, the more international cricket you get to play.”
Fiji’s domestic season runs over the same period as Australian cricket. All matches in Fiji are played on carpet pitches.
“This is the first time we’ve played on turf in two years,’’ Rika said.
“It’s going to be a great experience for us.”
Philippines don’t have the cricket experience that Fiji has, but the game continues to develop.
One of the Philippines best players is all-rounder Karweng Ng.
The trip to Bendigo is a homecoming of sorts for the 35-year-old.
Ng’s parents migrated to Bendigo in 1982 and Karweng lived here until 1988 before the family moved to Woodend.
Ng played cricket in Woodend and footy for Kyneton before moving back to the Philippines seven years ago.
“It’s nice to be back (in Bendigo),’’ Ng said.
“When we were driving into town I wondered whether Clogs (restaurant) would still be there and there it was.”
Ng said playing on turf pitches and grounds the size of the QEO would be a new experience for the Philippines squad.
“In the Philippines there are two divisions with nine teams in each and there’s an under-19 league. It’s a growing competition,’’ Ng said.
“There’s a lot of ex-Indian and Pakistani players. The numbers are improving all the time and the standard is improving all the time.
“It’s very exciting for us to get the chance to play in a tournament like this.
“We’ve got a few handy players and we expect to be competitive at a minimum. In one-day cricket anything can happen.”
Australian cricket has had a major impact on East Asia Pacific cricket.
Former Australian Test cricketer Julien Wiener is coach of Japan, while former South Australian opening batsman Shane Deitz is coach of Vanuatu.
Wiener played six Test matches and seven one-day internationals for Australia and had a highest Test score of 93.
Deitz played 66 first-class matches for the Redbacks and scored 3753 runs at an average of 30.76, including five centuries and a highest scored of 153.
The tournament starts on Sunday and concludes next Saturday.
Sunday – Fiji v Philippines at QEO, Indonesia v Vanuatu at Dower Park, Samoa v Japan at Canterbury Park.
Monday – Indonesia v Japan at QEO, Fiji v Samoa at Dower Park, Philippines v Vanuatu at Canterbury Park.
Wednesday – Vanuatu v Samoa at QEO, Philippines v Indonesia at Strathfieldsaye, Fiji v Japan at Weeroona Oval.
Thursday – Fiji v Indonesia at White Hills, Japan v Vanuatu at Strathfieldsaye, Samoa v Philippines at Weeroona Oval.
Saturday – Philippines v Japan at White Hills, Samoa v Indonesia at Canterbury Park, Fiji v Vanuatu at Dower Park.
Jikoivanualevu Kida (c), Sekove Ravoka, Viliame Yabaki, Seru Tupou, Josefa Baleicicia, Maciu Gauna, Peni Vuniwaqa, Josaia Baleicikoibia, Imran Khan, Cakacaka Cokovaki, Viliame Manakitoga, Cakacaka Veretaki, Riyad Khan, Vilikesa Nailolo. Coach: Josefa Rika.
Masaomi Kobayashi (c), Takuro Hagihara, Raheel Kano, Rui Matsumura, Wataru Miyauchi, Ken Okoshi, Mian Muneeb Siddique, Tsuyoshi Takada, Makoto Taniyama, Marcus Thurgate, Nozomi Tomizawa, Kohei Wakita, Shodai Yamada, Jun Yamashita. Coach: Julien Wiener.
I Kadek Gamantika (c), Ahmad Ramdoni, Amarkumar Haribhai Kapadia, Desandri, Frengky Shony, Gede Darma Arta, I Dewa Gde Putra Kisawa, I Wayan Budiarta, Muhaddis, Muhamad Anjar Tadarus, Muhammad Ridha Aulia, Gaurav Tiwari, Rizky Tri Rubbi, Viraj Chandrakant Bhammar. Coach: Prakash Vijaykumar.
Syed Tariq Ali, Karweng Ng, Daniel Smith, Henry Tyler, Manoj Gohal, Vimal Kumar, Haider Kiani, Machanda Bidappa, Ruchir Mahajan, Jonathon Hill, Rakesh Thakur, Anjum Mohd, Muzammil Shahzad, Harjit Singh. Coach: Iain Sinclair.
Ben Faafetai Mailata (c), Sean Cotter, Fred Sapatu, Daniel Enese Burgess, Solofuti Uatisone Falo, Pasi Kalosi, Uala Taitoe Kaisala, Pritchard Pritchard, Maletino Lane Maiava, Tiafala Alatasi, Aleki Tiatia, Naamanu Vaasili, Jim Sao Tafilua, Faafetaialealofa Vaaetasi. Coach: Timothy Carter.
Andrew Mansale (c), Jonathon Dunn, Patrick Matautaava, Trevor Langa, Wesley Viraliliu, Nalin Nipiko, Jelany Chilia, Jamal Vira, Gilmour Kaltongga, Joshua Rasu, Ronald Tari, Williamsing Nalisa, Apolinaire Liplip Stephen, Callum Charles Blake. Coach: Shane Deitz.