The Typhoon Hagibis Recovery Project spearheaded by the Japan Cricket Association is an example of the sport giving back to the community.
Award: Cricket 4 Good Initiative of the Year
This award is for a project where cricket is used as a vehicle for social change or development. Whether it be female empowerment, health or education, the project will use cricket as a platform to deliver and impact on wider social development issues facing the communities and individuals involved.
Winner: Japan – Typoon Hagibis Recovery Project
Japan’s youth team had made history by qualifying for the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2020 in South Africa, a first appearance at the global stage for any cricket team from the country. However, rather than preparing for the event, the young team and their coach had a bigger battle on their hands: cleaning up the ravages of Typhoon Hagibis.
Hagibis struck Japan in the second week of October 2019, causing widespread destruction. With 98 deaths nationwide and an estimated JPY 102 billion (USD 15 billion) worth of damage, it is one of the worst natural disasters in the country in recent times.
One of the cities affected was Sano, the home of cricket in Japan. The streets were swamped, more than 2,600 homes severely damaged and industries devastated. The community in this multi-cultural city has embraced cricket in the past decade, and with the people of the area in need, the Japan Cricket Association, the players and their families from around the country came together to demonstrate another kind of team-work and do their bit.
The U19 squad had at least two practice sessions cancelled, using the time to help with cleaning and the rebuilding efforts. The local Sano players, led by Shu Noguchi, Reiji Suto and brothers Kazuamasa and Shotaro Takahashi led the way, with several other players bringing their parents along. U19 coach Dhugal Bedingfield, who is also the JCA community cricket manager, along with all members of the association staff gave three afternoons a week for two months after the typhoon to volunteer.
Almost all of the national men’s and women’s squads chipped in. Sota Wada travelled all the way from Osaka, Ayaka Kanada came up from Aichi, while Akari Kano came from Sendai. Tokyo clubs Adore CC, Wyverns CC, Tigers CC, MAX CC, Chiba Sharks, Tokyo Wombats, Alpha Quashers, Men in Blue and Tokyo Falcons all set aside on-field rivalries and sent their representatives, too.
Daiichi Shuzo, a beloved local sake company, Kyodo Seitai, who are key to the local limestone industry, and Yajima Printing were some of the businesses they helped get back on their feet.
Overall, more than 300 volunteers from the cricket community across Japan participated in the relief efforts. The community contributed more than JPY 500,000 (USD 5,000) in cash, along with cleaning supplies and tools. They combined for 38 days of work, while also setting up communication networks giving information in English and Japanese for volunteers.
During this difficult time, cricket itself, rightly, took a backseat. The Sano International Cricket Ground itself was relatively spared; the storage sheds were flooded, but members of the Sano Junior Cricket Club fixed that within a day. The ground was instead later designated as an emergency heliport site.
All cricket at the four Sano River Grounds, where a lot of league cricket is played, was cancelled for the rest of the season. The Japan Cup Finals, the culmination of a 40-plus team competition, scheduled for the weekend the typhoon struck, were cancelled for the first time. The single-day Champions Trophy, the new Women's J-Bash and the Women's League Grand Final too were cancelled.
The U19 World Cup training was severely curtailed, especially in the weeks immediately after the typhoon, because, they didn't think it appropriate to be playing sport in a time of hardship for the city.
There was no hesitation from the cricket community to give back to the city that supported it. By putting faces and personalities to players, the relief project showed the power of sport to unite, with at least 10 nationalities represented. It helped break down cultural barriers and showed the city of Sano the international nature of cricket in a more human way.