Nobody expected the meeting between India and Japan at the ICC U-19 World Cup to be a close contest, so when the East Asians were bowled out for 41, with the total surpassed in 4.5 overs without any wickets lost, nobody was surprised.
It was the East Asians’ first major ICC event, and they were up against the four-time champions and the match lasted less than 28 overs in all.
None of the Japanese batsmen reached double figures – two batsmen were the highest scorers with seven each – and five of them were dismissed without opening their account. In fact, if it had not been for the 19 extra conceded by India – 12 of them wides – Japan would have been struggling to avoid the embarrassment of the lowest total in the history of the tournament, Scotland’s 22 against Australia in 2004. Had it not been for the eighth-wicket stand of 13 between Kento Dobell and Maximillian Clements, that record could have been in trouble.
But it is hard to be too critical of the Japanese. Cricket is nowhere near a mainstream sport in that country more known for sumo wrestling, football, baseball and badminton. In fact, it has been making rapid strides in several sports as the Tokyo Olympics come closer, with cricket not an Olympic sport yet. Judging by the names in the playing XI, at least seven or eight players have some expatriate heritage. Four of them are of Indian descent, which is not uncommon for upcoming cricketing countries, especially in age-group cricket.
But Japan would not have been at the U-19 World Cup in South Africa had it not been for a strange sequence of events. Papua New Guinea, one of the stronger emerging nations in the game and had appeared in the U-19 World Cup on eight occasions dating back to 1998, were fancied to go through the regional qualifier in Japan last June, but on the eve of their final and deciding match against the hosts, 10 of the PNG players were found shoplifting in Sano, just over an hour north of Tokyo. They were suspended by their national association, and with only four eligible players left in the squad, the team management had no option but to forfeit the match, paving the way for Japan making it without a ball being bowled.
In fact, the offending players were fortunate that local police didn’t press charges and allowed them to return home, according to Cricket PNG Chief Executive Officer Greg Campbell.
“A crime in Japan is anything from 5 to 10 to 15 years – there’s a no crime thing – so our main priority was the boys. They’re young men and they probably didn’t know better and got caught into peer pressure,” Campbell was quoted as saying by website rnz.co.nz when the offending players returned home.
He said all the stolen items were recovered, but it was the right thing to suspend the players at fault, even though it meant missing out on World Cup qualification.
“They’ve got no charges laid against them – everything has been cleared. We got all the items back, we paid for them at the shops they were taken (from) and donated that to charity, is what I can gather from our team manager, and the shopkeeper didn’t press any further and they left the country so they have no charges against them whatsoever.
“It was never an option in my mind or the team manager’s or the ICC (to let them play the final game) – they did wrong, mate. We shouldn’t let them go through, they did wrong,” he said.
“Although it wasn’t on the cricket field, nothing to do with any part of the cricket, it was after the hours of cricket, but it’s just something that the ICC code of conduct and Cricket PNG’s code of conduct doesn’t accept.”
Brief scores: India Under-19s 42 for 0 (Jaiswal 29*) beat Japan Under-19s 41 (Bishnoi 4-5, Tyagi 3-10) by ten wickets