At 38, most cricketers are at the twilight of their careers, but Shogo Kimura has only just begun. He played baseball in Japan for 30 years, but then decided to shift to cricket, and has, remarkably, made it to the national team.
Kimura played in the Japanese Professional Baseball League from 2003 to 2017, turning out for Yokohama BayStars, Hiroshima Carp and Seibu Lions.
However, he found himself without a team or a contract after he was released by the Lions, prompting him to consider taking up cricket. He first expressed his desire to make the switch in January 2018.
"I was asked about being a (baseball) coach but I still feel I can be an athlete. When I was asked about becoming a cricket player, I watched some video and became very interested," Kimura was quoted as saying by Associated Press in January.
"It is challenging for sure. But if I didn't have the confidence to do it I wouldn't be trying it. Maybe my confidence will be shaken but there are always going to be growing pains. Even with those challenges, I feel like I want to try and move forward in a positive direction."
It didn't take long for him to make the cut – he was named in the 20-man squad for the national cricket team four months later, in May 2018. Among those impressed by his skills was Cameron Tradell, a former trainer at Cricket Australia who was tasked with selecting the team.
"He's going really well. For a guy that hasn't played much cricket, you can start to see that he's really starting to pick up the nuances of cricket," Tradell recently told abc.net.au.
After 30 years of playing baseball, Shogo is all set to make his debut for Japan ... in cricket. He will, in all likelihood, turn out for Japan during the Embassy Cup on 22 and 23 September, which will be the first tournament hosted at the newly-built Sano International Cricket Ground.
To hone his skills, Kimura visited Australia and trained with Sam Truloff, a first-class cricketer for Queensland Bulls, in Darwin a few months ago.
"He's very disciplined, very motivated. And the amount of stuff he's picked up on in a short period of time he's been here has been pretty extraordinary, actually," Truloff said. "So, yeah, he's going really well."
His time in Australia also earned him the reputation a big hitter, as testified by Mark Sorrell, his coach at Northern Territory Cricket Association in Darwin.
"He's got some talent. There is no doubt about that," Sorrell told abc.net.au. "It's an often-used word, but he has got an ability to strike the ball very, very cleanly. And that's what we've focused on, which has been great."
Kimura is ambitious – he has already expressed his desire to play in the Indian Premier League, declaring the tournament as the benchmark for his success at cricket. He is also determined to spread cricket throughout Japan.
"I have a role to spread cricket, so I'd like Japanese people to know cricket through me," said Kimura.
Sorrell won't deter him, though. "It's a high goal. It's a really big goal," he said of Kimura's ambitions. "But, you know, the way he's gone about it, no-one will want to stand in his way."
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