Victory reward for hard work

Japan coach Richard Laidler

We are all delighted to secure our status in the ICC World Cricket League Division 7 after today s victory over Gibraltar.

The result is great reward for all the hard work put in by the team in the past few years, many of whom used all their annual leave just to play in the tournament.

You may be wondering how an Australian managed to become coach of the Japan cricket side. A few years ago I was living in Darwin doing some coaching and I was selling cars. One of my friends went to Japan to coach and then came back for personal reasons.

He asked me whether I fancied going to Japan to coach cricket for three months, which then became a year, and I have now been there seven years and absolutely love the place.

The role is part-time, as my full-time job is with a company that teaches sports with English. I started with a handful of kids and I now have about a hundred 9-19 year olds playing cricket which is great.

It is a great challenge to try and spread Australia s enthusiasm for cricket to Japan, but I do think there could be great passion for the sport, as baseball is very popular and some of the principles are the same. People in the country just need to have a chance to see the likes of Ricky Ponting and Andrew Flintoff.

Japanese cricket is beginning to get some good structures in place, we have a full-time Chief Executive (who also plays for the team), and our policy of only having four non-Japanese born players in the side means there are great opportunities for local people to play in an international tournament and represent their country.

One of the great challenges for us is that cricket is quite an expensive sport for people to play and it also takes a lot of time for people to travel to matches. We are very dependent on money from the ICC as it is difficult to attract sponsorship.

Cricket Victoria, who partners with us, helps us out by sending over development officers each year and they also send us some equipment. They do as much as they can but obviously they can only do so much for us.

I am also lucky that I can call on the advice of a cricketing legend whenever I need. Merv Hughes is a big mate of mine and we played against each other for a long, long time.

He is a real character and helps me out with lots of things and gives me some good coaching advice and I always try and pass this onto the boys.

Our last match at this event is against Nigeria tomorrow, who we lost to in our opening game, so it would be nice to finish the tournament on a high.