This week has been an incredible experience for me. As a kiwi proud of my Pacific Island heritage, I have welcomed the opportunity to spend a week with the Papua New Guinea team in the desert heat of the United Arab Emirates as they seek to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
Growing up as boy and having a Samoan mother I often reflect on my Pacific Island heritage and with such a big Polynesian community in New Zealand, I have always felt very strongly about giving back to my community. After discussions with the New Zealand Players Cricket Association I had some ideas on how I best could help give back through cricket. I had previously worked with the developing cricket world alongside my good friend Murphy Su’a - the first Samoan to play cricket for New Zealand. He had a big influence on the growth of Samoan Cricket and I supported him in attending an ICC Regional Qualifying event that Samoa was competing in. It was there that I became aware of just how big cricket was in the Pacific Islands.
So when the opportunity arose through the ICC’s East Asia Pacific office to be part of the coaching team with Cricket PNG, I jumped at it.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but I was pretty open minded. I have been very impressed by the entire Cricket PNG set-up. The culture of the team is incredible. In true pasifika style, it is family orientated and a friendly team who were very welcoming. Culture goes a long way in cricket and this group has it in abundance. It is a big advantage how close they are as a team, especially when the going gets tough.
I have been working closely with the players and coaches, initially just watching and getting to know them. We have focused on how to tackle different situations of success and failure; preparing to bat, varying training methods and sharpening game awareness. A lot of the guys’ longest form of cricket back home is two-day cricket, so adapting game plans to succeed in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup has been a focus of our work.
PNG has had a lot of success in the shorter form of the game in the 50-over ICC World Cricket League Championship and is in a very good position to make the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, which directly qualifies to the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019. The team is very much aware of the journey it is on and the prize at the end of it.
As a result, the team has been asking lots of questions and its players have been extremely receptive with the information they have been given. Hopefully they can get a lot out of it for the time I am here as they have been awesome to deal with.
The success of teams like Afghanistan and Ireland is so exciting to see, the competitive level on the international scene continues to grow, with players being picked up for domestic leagues across the world. PNG are a part of this and we need more competitive teams as it pushes us all to improve and make international cricket more exciting.
The game is growing in PNG with a staggering 165,500 participants involved in our great game. The progress already made in the Pacific in the growth of the game is exciting, but
New Zealand Cricket are being supportive of me being here and are exploring opportunities of return trips.
I’ve really enjoyed being able to give back to the game that has given me so much enjoyment and opportunity. The New Zealand Cricket Players' Association have been incredibly supportive in organising my trip here. I look forward to watching PNG’s progress and being involved with them in the future.