ICC recognises the work of Associates in annual Development Awards announcements

Finland, Japan, Namibia, PNG, Rwanda and Thailand have scooped the major trophies during the ICC's Annual Development Awards, Isaac Lockett reports

The International Cricket Council (ICC) recognized the work of developing cricketing nations through the presenting of awards to national bodies. These awards demonstrate the hard work that is being undertaken globally to grow the game and is a true celebration of what cricketing nations are able to achieve.

 ‘Digital Engagement of the Year’ – Cricket Finland

Cricket Finland won the award for ‘Digital Engagement of the Year’. The award is given to the national body who made use of a digital platform or technology in an innovative way or has run a campaign which aims to drive engagement with the sport both amongst fans and the wider community.  

Cricket Finlan’s journey with technology started in 2017 when the game between Finland v Sweden game was streamed. The streams offered initially were only from a side-on view without sound. Since this initial point, Cricket Finland has been on a journey to improve the quality of the streams for cricket’s global audience. An example of the evolution of Cricket Finland’s digital journey can be seen during the 2019 T20Is against Spain; for the first time, Cricket Finland was able to provide commentary to the fans tuning in the matches. Potential future developments include their first manned camera and plans stream the women’s national team’s games. Now, thanks to Cricket Finland’s determination and ambition, steams of Finish cricket have gained  ‘hundreds of thousands of views’ and have allowed the world to witness that the country possess.

With Cricket Finland’s mission to turn cricket into a household name in the country, the board are doing fantastic work to raise awareness of cricket in Finland and may have created a blueprint to allow other nations to showcase the quality of cricket being played across the globe. 

‘Cricket 4 Good Initiative of the Year’ – Japan Cricket Association

The Japan Cricket Association won the ‘Cricket 4 Good Initiative of the Year’, which is awarded to an association who used cricket as a force for social change or development.

Typhoon Hagibis caused destruction when it hit Japan during the second week of October 2019. The city of Sano, the symbolic home of cricket in Japan, was left in ruin with more than 2,600 homes severely damaged and industries ruined. Members from both the male and female senior national teams, club teams from outside of Sano and the men’s Under 19 team, who had been preparing for their first appearance a the Under 19 World Cup, all volunteered their time to help to clean up after the typhoon. Overall, there were around 300 volunteers from the Japanese cricketing family who all gave up their time to help the effort to restore Sano to its previous beauty. The project to clean up Sano provides a perfect example of the power that cricket can have and can be much more than a sport. 

Japanese team Huddle during the U19 world cup

Being given the award during the same week as the Japan Premier League taking place definitely caps an extremely successful week for the Association. 

ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year – Namibia Men’s team 

The Namibian Men’s team won the award for the ‘ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year’ for their convincing victory against Hong Kong during the ICC World Cricket League Division 2. There was a lot at stake during this game as on top of the normal pressures when playing for a national team, Namibia needed a big victory to secure their status as an ODI playing nation. Being sent into bat by Hong Kong, Namibia scored 396/3 from their 50 overs with some fantastic contributions from JP Kotze (148) and Stephen Baard (122). Then a fantastic all-round team bowling and fielding performance led to the Eagles bowling out the opposition for 245. The size of the victory meant that the team were able to overtake the USA in the competition on net run rate and secured Namibia’s ODI status for the first time in 16 years. 

Cricket Namibia announced their award at a press conference in Windhoek

The cricket team’s ODI status caused ripples through Namibia’s cricketing ecosystem, with the team becoming the only fully professional set up in the country. Cricket Namibia was able to offer full-time contracts to 17 players and now means that the country has the potential to gain massive levels of exposure when against cricket’s biggest nations. The victory against Hong Kong can also be said to have given the team a huge momentum swing with the team going on to win the final of the  ICC World Cricket League Division 2 against Oman and qualified for the now postponed 2020 T20 World Cup. One victory, much like one defeat, does not define a team; but it is safe to say that Namibia’s victory against Hong Kong in 2019 will go down in the nation’s cricketing folk law. 

100% Cricket Female Participation Programme of the Year – Rwanda Cricket Association

The Rwandan Cricket Association’s programme to get females involved in cricket, in partnership with Cricket Builds Hope, has been recognized as the ‘100% Cricket Participation Programme of the Year’. This award is given to a national body who runs a project that aims to introduce cricket to females or a project that enables women who have become involved with cricket to gain access to regular opportunities to play the game. The programme ran by the Association and Cricket Builds Hope is aimed at women who are local to the Gahanga Cricket Stadium and focusses on helping individuals plan their futures whilst also promoting female empowerment. Currently, since its launch in 2018 the programme has gone on to help around 300 women aged between 15 and 25 and promises to help many more.

A weekend of fun and competition at the Gahanga Cricket Stadium (Photo: ICC)

The project offers the opportunity for women to grow their passion for cricket whilst being in a safe and welcoming environment which promotes self-growth. The Rwanda Cricket Association stated that the project is in line with the Association’s vision to create a ‘make cricket a game that is gender-balanced’. The project is definitely one that the Association should be proud of the project and displays that cricket is a vehicle that can be used to provide further momentum to the women’s equality movement across the globe. 

Gray-Nicolls Participation Programme of the Year – Papa New Guinea

Cricket PNG claimed the Gray-Nicolls Participation Programme of the Year for their entry-level participation programmes. This award is awarded to the national body that provides their population with a participation programme which either attracts new participants, both male and female, to the sport or that converts those who have been given an initial exposure to the sport to regular players. During 2019, PNG qualified for the T20 world cup which meant that players such as Assad Vala, Norman Vanua and Damien Ravu became household names. Currently, there is over 50% of both the men’s and women’s team who came through the countries BSP School Kriket programme, which shows that the countries programmes clearly are successful in developing talent. 

Papua New Guinea
PNG celebrate a wicket during their win over Kenya during the Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019 (Photo: ICC)

Building on the already existing structure within PNG, 2019 then saw the Cricket for Good with ChildFund Australia pilot project. The Cricket for Good project took place during August and December 2019 in Tubusereia and Pari villages. The project focussed on empowering the youth of local communities to improve both education and gender equality, aiming to educate children about respecting others, while also hoping to get them introduced into Cricket PNG’s development pathways. In 2019, the BSP School Kriket programme had over 235,000 schoolchildren participating meaning that since the project first started that there have been over 1.45 million children pick up a cricket bat. Cricket PNG have created participation programmes that not only empower both male and female children but also ensure that the next generation of cricketing talent is being developed.    

ICC Associate Member Women’s Performance Of The Year – Thailand Women Team 

Thailand gained the world’s attention during their performances in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. But prior to this, their victory against Ireland during the World Cup qualifiers was the crunch match that set up their do-or-die qualifier against PNG, and was arguably the biggest cricketing result in the country’s history. During the game, 2019 ICC Associate Member Women’s Performance Of The Year Chanida Sutthiruang (3-14) and Suleeporn Laomi (3-17) helped their team defend 92.   

Natthakan Chantham of Thailand (R) celebrates scoring a half century with Chanida Sutthiruang (L)

Emerging Cricket was the side’s official partner during the T20 World and you can catch up with Nishadh Rego’s two-part piece on the story behind Thailand’s meteoric rise here.

Whilst these awards highlight the fantastic work of all of the winners, there are lots of fantastic projects and campaigns being run by developing nations across the cricketing world. But huge congratulations should go to all of the winners. I may be argued that Associate nation cricket may not get the exposure it deserves but seeing the ICC recognise the work being done will give other cricketing nations inspiration to develop their own systems. 

ICC Development Awards 2019 winners

Gray-Nicolls Participation Programme of the Year – Cricket PNG
100% Cricket Female Participation Programme of the Year – Rwanda Cricket Association
ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year – Cricket Namibia
ICC Associate Member Women’s Performance of the Year – Cricket Association of Thailand
Digital Engagement of the Year – Cricket Finland
Cricket 4 Good Initiative of the Year – Japan Cricket Association

Gray-Nicolls Participation Programme of the Year Regional winners:
Africa – Botswana Cricket Association
Americas – Cricket Brasil
Asia – Malaysia Cricket Association
Europe – Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond

100% Cricket Female Participation Programme of the Year Regional winners:
Americas – Cricket Chile
Asia – Bhutan Cricket Council Board
EAP – Cricket Indonesia
Europe – Cricket Scotland

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