February and March are a surprisingly hectic time in the Japan Cricket office. Despite it being distinctly un-cricketlike conditions outside (generally cold, a bit wet and even the odd bit of snowfall), you could easily think we're in full swing given the schedule.
I recently realised that I am currently in the middle of working 10 out of 12 weekends, which is fairly draining, especially as it's often hard to take days off in the week. That said, I am currently writing this from my bed at 9:30am on a Wednesday morning as I figured a half day wouldn't do any harm.
It may sound like I'm whinging, but I'm really not. Most of these weekends involve hanging around a cricket field, which is why I took the job in the first place. Two weekends in February for example, were spent in the city of Bendigo, Australia, watching our men's team play in the East Asia Pacific regional qualifiers for the World Cricket League. The sun shone, the company was good, the only issue was the results.
Unfortunately we were undone by every team there, which showed how far we have to go. Of course there were some mitigating circumstances (it's the middle of our winter, our team was the youngest by far and the only one without any "expat" players), but ultimately we hope that if we can keep this group of players together, and supplement it with new young talent who have played the game since they were eight years old, then our standing within the region will increase.
A tour like that can be quite chastening, but I was really impressed with the attitude of our players, who all got on with it and continued to give their best. If they can keep that up then better results will come.
Right now I am in the middle of the National Trials weekends. This was introduced last year and we had just two days with men and women together as we tried to identify some new talent. It was all a bit hectic so this year we split it into two weekends with the women trialling last weekend and the men this weekend coming.
Running these events is Cam Tradell, a man who has featured in the blog before, who is over here for his sixth time and brings with him not only a unique coaching mind, but an incredible positivity which helps everyone around him. He's not scared of a beer either.
After this we have a strategy meeting with the ICC and then the women's tournament warm ups begin and the event itself kicks off at the end of April. Once that is all done and dusted I'll get a decent break as my parents are coming to visit and we'll do a little bit of travelling around Japan, so I'll finally visit Kyoto, Kobe and Hiroshima.
It's not all weekends of cricket however, because just prior to going to Bendigo I took the brilliantly named "Snow Monkey Express" train up to Nagano and hung out with some primates who enjoy a warm bath. Never have I felt more surrounded by likeminded creatures.
This trip was actually worth a blog post all of it's own, but since it's been about six weeks you'll just have to make do with some monkey pictures and my assertion that it was awesome and everyone should go. Pretty cold though.