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20:06 23 March 2016

Cricket: Ambitious plans announced for expanding sport in Japan

TOKYO, March 23, Kyodo

The Japan Cricket Association announced on Wednesday the first steps toward building an international standard ground in Tochigi Prefecture, the first such ground in the country.

A day after the Sano City Council passed a bill that will officially change the name of the site which used to be Tanuma High School to Sano International Cricket Ground, the JCA outlined the importance of the decision in a press release, saying that "the significance of this is considerable. For the first time Japan now has a dedicated cricketing venue built for purpose which no longer has to compete with other sports for usage."

Sano has long been regarded as the center for Japanese cricket and hosted the Pakistan Women's A Team in 2013 as well as the six-team East Asia Pacific Trophy the following year.

In November, the city will host the first ever men's East Asia Cup, featuring the national teams of Japan, China and South Korea and the all Chinese Dragons side from Hong Kong.

"We are really excited about formalizing this agreement between the four countries," said JCA Chief Executive Officer Naoki Miyaji.

"We are all close by so travel will be simple and all the four teams will be at a similar standard in both the men's and women's competitions."

This year's competition will be a Twenty20 tournament among the men with the women playing next year in Hong Kong.

Along with the International Cricket Ground, which is expected to host 180 games this year, Sano has four other cricket pitches and an indoor gym.

A three lane practice net facility with high quality floodlights is also under construction and is planned to be completed by the end of March.

Future plans include a complete renewal of the playing fields, which will host a One Day International standard oval and a second oval meeting the women's ODI standards. The ground will also have a newly built pavilion and an indoor training center.

==Kyodo

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