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Cricket plans bumper season

Friday 3 February 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Cricket, Sports


Cricket plans bumper season
Tupapa K-11 players celebrate after taking a wicket in the Rarotonga Cricket Club competition final against Arorangi Redbacks on Saturday at Raemaru Park. Picture: RASHNEEL KUMAR/ 23020214

After a successful finish to the 2022 cricket season, the national association is looking forward to some exciting development programmes this year to improve the profile of the sport in the Cook Islands.

The 2022 Rarotonga Cricket Club competition finals last weekend brought down the curtains on the domestic season.

Muri retained the women’s title beating Arorangi Red Hot Babes by nine wickets while Tupapa K-11 was crowned the new champions in the men’s division after the side beat 2021 champs Arorangi Redbacks by 49 runs.

Cook Islands Cricket Association president Grant Walker saidthey had a successful 2022 season as the playoffs were exciting and they could see some real action and drama.

Walker said the 2022 domestic competition faced a series of challenges as they had a late start to the season because the men’s team were on a tour and there was the subsequent Cook Islands Games.

“The season didn’t get going until late October 2022 and finished at the end of January 2023. I cannot remember a final finish after Christmas in the past eight seasons,” Walker said.

He said from a fixtures standpoint they also had to deal with some venue related issues. 

And it was unfortunate that the Matavera men’s side had difficulty sustaining playing numbers so they had to retire from the competition, leaving eight teams in the competition. 

“Not something we like to see, but better to retire a team and let those players sign on with other clubs than struggle with numbers and potential forfeit.

“Our hope is they will be able to reform for the 2023 season.”

Walker said eventual winner Tupapa was without a field as Victory Park was being rebuilt and was unavailable. This saw some games being shifted around, with Turangi helping out, as they had the only dedicated cricket pitch in Rarotonga. 

“This only strengthens our resolve to find a national field for our sport that can meet international requirements in size, and we can utilise it all year round.”

Walker says it is imperative that cricket grows and become an influential sport in the Cook Islands.

Muri skipper Philica Maruariki takes her run against Arorangi in the final. Picture: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23012910

Leaving the challenges aside, he said the grand finals day was a success with a large crowd and plenty of fun for the family with food trucks and entertainment for the kids. 

And it featured their first live stream on social media. 

He thanked the Arorangi Cricket Club for hosting, and Byron Brown and his team for the live stream. 

“JJ Browne came in to announce which was fantastic, and I really feel that it was special to get our game out to the Pa Enua and to our supporters and fans overseas. 

“I foresee this being a regular feature of our finals moving forward.”

For 2023, Walker said it will be special as they have a new executive board.

They are also setting up some new committees to build on the lessons learned in 2022 and improve the domestic competition by rebuilding the umpiring core, and ensuring younger players have greater opportunities. 

They also plan to work with Aitutaki to support their association and competition. 

Walker also hopes to get competitions running in Mangaia, Pukapuka, and Manihiki/Rakahanga this year.

On the national level, he said coach/development officer Craig Murray, and Kunta Ritawa will be travelling to Fiji for the Australian Defence Force’s Pacific Island Cricket Challenge (PICC23) in March. 

They will attend a skills development programme.

National team manager Rahul Patil will also be attending the tournament portion of PICC23 where he has been added to the tournament communications team.

When Murray returns, he will continue to run the youth programme which includes Tereora College, and a number of the primary schools. 

“Our hope is to have that end in a scholastic competition sometime later in 2023.”

Other plans include the forming of the National Women’s side in preparation of the ICC EAP T20 World Cup Qualifier scheduled for late August in Vanuatu. 

“As part of that process we have scheduled a series of games in Auckland for both our men’s and women’s teams as the precursor to the women heading to Vanuatu.”

Walker said this would be exciting as the men’s team would reconvene in Auckland prior to playing both the Northern Districts Māori team and the Auckland Māori team, with a possible New Zealand Cricket development squad joining the series, as well.

The women’s team will be playing their warm up matches against a New Zealand Maori side that is being constructed for this series.

Walker said this would be similar to how the Auckland Māori team was formed in 2022. 

New Zealand Cricket is very supportive of this endeavor, and we are very keen to keep these links going, he adds.

“We plan to do a lot of new stuff, a lot of things that need to be revived, and we have a new outlook for cricket. I can’t say enough about how valuable the sponsorship of CIC Ltd has been as we try to expand our programmes, and of course with international travel costing what it does now,” Walker said.

“We will be focusing on fundraising as well and hope the community will support us, as we grow the game in 2023.”