2019: The President’s Review
2019 was a season of sweeping highs and lows for the Wombats. The biggest low was of course the loss of our dear mate and club legend, Rich Laidler, who passed away after a long battle with cancer in May. Not only was Laids a staunch Wombat, he was a long standing servant of Japanese cricket in the early days of its establishment, even serving as Coach of the national side for several years. As a touching gesture of grief and respect, his passing was marked by all teams in the Japan Cricket League (JCL) bearing black arm bands and observing a moment of silence before their matches on the following Saturday. Farewell Laids — fondly remembered and sorely missed.
Meanwhile, Laids’ legacy continues with plenty of new blood joining the Wombats this year. We welcomed new Wombats, Achal Gurnani (IND), Vignesh Bandi (AUS), Chandu Mudunuru (IND), Apoorv Jaitly (IND), Henry Adams (UK), and James Samarji (UK) at the start of the season. There was also a change at the helm for the Club with Richie Bracefield taking over as President from Jamie Payne who stepped into the Vice President role. Milinda Dharmadasa was appointed Treasurer, relieving Evan Hitchman from his long tenure in the role, and Dean Abbott was appointed as the new T20 XI Captain. Meanwhile, Alex Patmore continued on as our JCL XI Captain for another year.
This year the club warmly welcomed two new sponsors! The first to sign on was It’s Just Cricket, a boutique UK based online retailer specialising in top quality cricket equipment and handpicked cricket bats. It was great to see so many Wombats make the most of the club discounts and showing up on game day bearing some bright and beautiful English willow and gleaming new pads, gloves, and helmets.
Our search for a flagship sponsor also finally came to an end! Blue Compass came to the party mid-season, donating some much needed funds for the Club to acquire new colour uniforms for 2020. Blue Compass is a philanthropic organisation formed to support and build rural communities in Japan. Supporting local schools and sports teams is just one of the many ways in which they do this. We also warmly welcomed back our legacy sponsors, Pernod Ricard (George Wyndham wines), Harnet Corporation, and Hakuba Snow School for their continued generosity and support.
Japan Cricket League (JCL) Division 1: 6th overall
With the inauguration of white ball cricket in the JCL, teams weren’t sure what they’d get from the ball with the dry conditions early in the season. Sure enough, batsmen rejoiced as bowlers lamented from the lack of swing and lightening outfields that quickly shredded the shine from the ball. Despite back to back fifties, by skipper, Alex Patmore, a personal best in Japan of 96 for opener, Richie Bracefield, and a first-up fifty to returning Wombat, Dan Mee, the Wombats weren’t able to take the wickets needed and suffered three consecutive losses to start the season. However, our fortunes looked to change as Japan’s legendary summer humidity thickened.
Our turning point was this year’s first meeting with our eternal rivals, the Chiba Sharks. Rising to the challenge, our bowlers finally found their rhythms, with Augustine Jacob, Dean Abbott, and new lad, Vignesh Bandi taking two a-piece. Jacob proving particularly difficult to score from. In truly indomitable fashion, Alex Patmore led from the front with a classy 116* (108) to chase down the Sharks’ 205. A truly memorable innings by Alex, and glorious victory for the Wombats. The victory over the Sharks was followed by a convincing win over the Wyverns. However, momentum was stemmed by a loss to the formidable Max CC 1st XI and typhoon season washing out several key matches against several vulnerable teams, leaving the Wombats with an underwhelming points tally and facing relegation unless we could notch up a couple of late wins.
While finishing 6th overall was far from where we wanted to be, a lot of character was shown by the lads to fend off relegation, with record breaking individual performances, selfless bowling partnerships and vital batting cameos, we proved to ourselves and our opponents that we can compete with the very best on our day. A little more favour from the weather gods could have painted a very different picture for us this season. That’s cricket I suppose. We still had some sensational individual performances and partnerships throughout the season, including one incredible record shattering bowling spell from Vignesh Bandi in his debut season for the Wombats, taking 6 for 11 off his 8 overs in a must win clash against the Men in Blue. That’ll be hard to beat!
New Club 40-over Records Set in 2019
Best figures (6+ overs): Vignesh Bandi – 8ov 6w 11r 4m (v Men in Blue 25/8/19)
Batting – Individual
6th-highest individual score: Alex Patmore – 116* (v Chiba Sharks 1/5/19)
Highest score batting at 10: Achal Gurnani – 21* (v AQCC 25/8/19)
Highest score batting at 11: Solaiman Haque – 13 (v Men in Blue 25/5/19)
Batting – Partnerships
4th-highest partnership: Alex Patmore & Richie Bracefield – 174 (v Tigers 6/4/19)
Highest 10th-wicket partnership: Achal Gurnani & Augustine Jacob – 30 (v AQCC 3/8/19)
Japan Cup T20 League
Our number one aim of T20 cricket in Japan has always been to have fun! Despite not getting the desired results in the short format this year we had plenty of that and also some great individual performances. Notably with the bat, Luke Eyes’ 64 against Aoyama Gakuin. He looked invincible until he put someone over the fence at the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club (YCAC) and was forced to retire in accordance with the local rules. Achal Gurnani looked dangerous consistently all year with the ball, making it hard for teams to score during power plays. Gurnani also contributed well with the bat, with numerous scores over 30. However, it was the new Captain, Dean Abbott who secured the Silver Wombat Award with his consistent performances with both bat and ball, securing top three best performing figures overall in both disciplines.
Surprisingly, the highlight of the year, wasn’t the fun or notable performances (of which we had plenty), but the amount of new Wombats joining the Club and putting in some impressive performances and bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the side. A big thanks to those guys for giving the new captain the best type of headache, too many players for selection! It was very pleasing to see many of the new lads ascend into the JCL XI as well, with some showing a lot of promise in the 40-over format. We’ll hope to see more of that in 2020!
Off the Park…
Japan enjoyed rugby fever as it hosted the Rugby World Cup this year. The Wombats enjoyed watching plenty of matches at Tregion Port, a restaurant working closely with our new sponsor, Blue Compass. Blue Compass also hosted the Wombats exclusively for the Quarter Final between Ireland and the All Blacks. A great night had by all, especially if you were a Kiwi.
We held our annual Quiz Night a bit later this year as a result of the RWC. We also moved the event to Tregion Port who challenged us to fill the whole place. Challenge accepted! We had a whopping 20 teams contesting this year (approx. 80+ guests), our biggest Quiz Night ever! The Club was able to raise record amounts of funds thanks to Harnet for their hugely popular imported meat packs, Pernod Ricard for their generous assortment of Jacob’s Creek wines, and Hakuba Snow School for their free ski lessons, as hotly contested raffle prizes.
We also held a hugely successful auction for a 2019 All Blacks jersey personally signed by former All Black captain, Richie McCaw. A big thanks to our friend Sam Pearson for getting Richie’s scribble! A hugely successful evening for the Club and pleasure for us to have hosted so many, included representatives from several of our sponsors.
Our final event of the year was our Awards Night. A chance to reflect on the season that was, and to acknowledge outstanding individual performances (and blow outs). It was pleasing to see so many new Wombats featuring among the club awards this year, and deservedly so. We also saw a much closer race for the prized Golden Wombat, awarded by popular choice to the most consistent on-field performer in the JCL for the season. The Silver Wombat, awarded to the best performer in the T20 competition was also tightly contested. The respective JCL and T20 captains took out each of these awards this year, with Alex Patmore making it three in a row! Very well deserved. Our other coveted award is The Golden Thong, awarded to the player who committed the single most stupid act of the year. We were pleased (and somewhat unsurprised) to see new Wombat, Apoorv Jaitly, take this award for 2019 for a particularly disastrous series of events for the young man following our revelrous victory over the Chiba Sharks. Apoorv leaves us to return to India in the new year – good luck over there mate. Please be careful…
2019 Club Awards
- Golden Wombat – Alex Patmore
- Best Bowler – Vignesh Bandi
- Best Batsman – Alex Patmore
- Silver Wombat – Dean Abbott
- Golden Thong – Apoorv Jaitly
- Richard Laidler Coach’s Award – Vignesh Bandi
- Clubman Award – Achal Gurnani
- Herschelle Gibbs – Augustine Jacob
- Great Moment in Sport – Vignesh Bandi
- Catch of the Year – James Samarji
- Quote of the Year – Narendar Madhavan
- Dummy Spit – Alex Patmore
*In honour of our friend, Rich Laidler, who passed away this year, the club re-named the Coach’s Award the Richard Laidler Coach’s Award.
Look Sharp 2020!
We look forward to showing off our new colour uniforms in 2020. We are in the final design stages and look to have those ready for the start of the 2020 season in April. Thanks to Blue Compass for the generous funding for our new duds which will drop in March 2020!
On behalf of the Club, we sincerely thank all of our sponsors, donors, volunteers, and sideline heroes for enabling us to play our summer pastime and continue the Wombats tradition. 1…2…3…the Wombats are we!
2019 WOMBATS AT A GLANCE
Players: Approx. 40+ (this excludes our wider community of friends and former players)
Nationalities: 9 (Australia, New Zealand, England, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Japan, Bangladesh, Nepal)
Total seasons: 17 (founded 2002)
Facebook followers: 519
Facebook post reach: 7000+
We created an Instagram account for the Club this year. We’ve reached approximately 100 followers so far and will be looking to extend outreach on this platform. Stay tuned!
2019 CLUB LEADERSHIP
President: Richie Bracefield
Vice President: Jamie Payne
Treasurer: Milinda Dharmadasa
JCL XI Captain: Alex Patmore
T20 XI Captain: Dean Abbott
Senior Committee: Evan Hitchman, Augustine Jacob, Alex Koolhof, Luke Eyes
Blue Compass – Financial Sponsor
Pernod Ricard – Man of Match Sponsor / Significant Raffle Prize Sponsor
Harnet Corporation – Significant Raffle Prize Donor
Hakuba Snow School – Raffle Prize Donor
It’s Just Cricket – Cricket Gear Sponsor