Cricket action returned to Japan today with the start of the Japan Premier League.
The league will see five teams compete for the title and will take place over three days. The action started at 10:30 am (JST) with four games scheduled to take place each day, although only two were able to be completed today due to inclement weather.
The final of the competition was to take place on July 25, at 2:30 pm but has already been rescheduled for 10.30am on the 26th, with any further abandonment pushing that final game back to 2.30pm.
The teams in the competition are comprised of players who excelled during the T20 Japan Cup from each region. This means that each team has well-established Japanese national players within their ranks along with exciting young talents and star players from further afield.
The East Kanto Sun Risers are last year’s champions, defeating the Hurricanes in the 2019 event. Last years win was reported to be an unexpected victory for the Sun Risers, but any team that can win a championship should not be discounted. The team, being led by Tsuyoshi Takada, have seen a large change in personnel going into this year’s competition, which presents both an element of surprise and inexperience. If the new talent is able to quickly adapt to the demands of the tournament then the team should be competitive again. Alongside the Japanese talents within the squad, the Sun Risers will be able to call upon Sanjaya Yapabandara, who bowls very effective off-spin in T20 cricket and has the ability to score quickly; during the tournament, he should be a real asset for his team.
Last year’s losing finalists, the West Kanto Hurricanes, were so close to claiming their first Japan Premier League title. There is a sense of consistency within the Hurricanes’ ranks with the core group of players remaining stable with a couple of high-class additions. The team have further bolstered their squad with national team captain Masaomi Kobayashi joining. With Tomoki Ota leading the team but being able to gain the thoughts of the Kobayashi means that spectators may see tactically masterful cricket helping the team get over the line in close encounters. After last years performance, there will be almost expectation like pressure for Hurricanes to be competing in the latter stages of the competition.
The North Kanto Lions finished third in last year’s competition, which was a much-improved performance from previous seasons. The Lions must ensure that they keep the momentum from 2019 season to ensure that the team continue their improved results. The team has been strengthened, and new signing Hanif Khan has taken over as captain. Calling on one of the more diverse playing groups across the all five Japan-based squads, and with players with roots in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Japan the Lion will be hoping this variety of experience will help them improve on last year.
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The South Kanto Super Kings will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year’s disappointing season. The team are three times Japan Premier League champions who have the pedigree to make a swift return to the later stages of the competition. Prior to the commencing of the tournament, there has been a lot of positivity surrounding the Super Kings with Manoj Bhardwaj being quoted as saying ‘We (The South Kanto Super Kings) are 100% confident of winning and show our full potential’. As long as the Super Kings are able to control their confidence during the competition, based on Bhardwaj supporters should be in for a treat.
The final team competing in the competition are the Kansai Chargers; a new addition to this year’s Japan Premier League. The expansion of this year’s competition really is a testament to the hard work and passion that the Japan Cricket Association has put into growing cricket over the last few years. The team are largely an unknown quantity in terms of their ability to perform in the tournament, but teams should not discount them and the Chargers, like all the teams, have a chance of reaching the final.
New tech partnership for the JCA
The tournament is able to be followed through the dedicated match centre, with both live streaming and match information being made available. There is the plan that each of group stage games will be shown via a single camera, with the final being shown via two cameras with the action from the final being accompanied with commentary. The live streaming was able to be achieved through the collaboration between the Japan Cricket Association and Australian sports digital software company InteractSport. The deal sees not only the Japan Premier League being streamed but also the Embassy Cup.
The CEO of the Japan Cricket Association, Naoki Miyaji, has stated the Association ‘are delighted to be able to showcase the highest level of cricket in Japan to all of our fans both at home and abroad. We (the Japan Cricket Association) hope that everyone will enjoy following the matches and seeing the skills on show’.
The start of the Japane Premier League is not the only exciting news coming out of Japan. Recently, there was extensive works completed to Kaizuka Cricket Ground. The ground worked on by volunteers, was expanded by around 500 square metres and is now the largest cricket centre in the west of the country. It will host its first matches later this year.
Japan Cricket continues to experience an era of growth, with the U19 team competing at the most recent World Cup. Whilst cricket is not new to Japan, this period in cricket’s history may be able to start further growth, securing cricket as a major sport in the country.
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