Shizuka Miyaji, currently 40, is representing Japan in the inaugural FairBreak Invitational Tournament held in Dubai and is already rubbing shoulders with the world stars like Bismah Maroof, Sophie Ecclestone, and Sophia Dunkley.
Being denied to play cricket at a club once, Shizuka didn’t give up on her sporting dreams. Cricket happened to her by accident at her university and there was no looking back after that. She went on to play for Japan and also lead her side.
Female Cricket got in touch with Shizuka Miyaji to learn more about her cricket journey.
Take us through your childhood.
I grew up in Nishinomiya City. I loved playing sports and wanted to play baseball, but the local team didn’t allow girls to join in those days. I played badminton, and basketball and then was a short distance runner in Junior High School and High School.
When did you decide to become a cricketer?
I joined the Cricket team at my University because someone had invited me along to training and it was similar to baseball which I wanted to play when I was younger.
How was the cricketing culture in Japan while you were growing up?
My University had a team for males and females and we both enjoyed social activities as well as playing. We usually trained together and supported each other in matches.
Who was your role model?
Did you always want to be an all-rounder? How do you work on honing both skills?
I started as a medium pace bowler. I then picked up spin bowling and also developed my batting skills.
Tell us about the age group cricket or domestic cricket structure in Japan.
There wasn’t a lot of junior Cricket played in Japan when I grew up, but now there are playing opportunities for 6-7-year-olds which lead into clubs and U15, then U19 leagues. Cricket is growing in the Cities of Cricket which the JCA has identified as focus areas and with the growing international communities mainly near Tokyo. The standard is also improving dramatically and the Men’s U19 team qualified for the 2020 ICC U19 World Cup. The number of girls playing is also growing and I would expect to see female underage competitions starting in the near future.
You made your ODI debut in 2011 during the Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier. Take us through your debut match.
The tournament was our first opportunity at a global qualifier. We were able to win our final match against Zimbabwe. It was a very proud moment for us to win a match against an ICC full member.
Just a year before that, in the 2010 Asian Games, you were a part of the Japan team that won the bronze medal. Tell us more about that tournament.
Cricket was included in the Asian Games for the first time in 2010. It was a great experience to be part of a multi-sport event, being part of the Team Japan with athletes from other sports as well as meeting ones from the other participating teams. At the tournament, we played against the teams in the ICC Asia Region. Japan is in the East-Asia Pacific Region so it was fun to play against teams from a different regions. The third-place playoff match was a close match, so we all dashed out onto the field to celebrate the win when we passed the target.
In the 2013 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 qualifier. Did you expect to become the captain? How was the experience of leading the side?
The captaincy was challenging as well as the tournament. We lost in the final so that was extremely disappointing.
How has cricket in Japan evolved over the years?
Cricket in Japan has developed quite rapidly in recent years. We have excellent facilities and competitions, with more people enjoying the sport. You see a lot more people supporting the sport so I have no doubt that it will go from strength to strength from here.
At 40 years of age, you are still going strong. What is the secret to your longevity?
Fitness/Strength and Conditioning, and diet. I have studied sports nutrition and have worked with a trainer to stay fit, become stronger, and improve control over my body movements.
How excited are you to feature in the Fairbreak tournament?
This is an opportunity that has been my goal and dream. Playing at a global tournament with international stars is an exciting opportunity. Fairbreak is providing this opportunity to many females from around the globe, which is an absolutely fantastic initiative.
You are the first Japanese player to sign a professional contract to participate in an overseas competition. Did you expect this?
Yes I am. It was my goal and dream, so I’m extremely excited to be given this opportunity. I am also thankful to Sano City who has invested in Cricket facilities, the supporters and sponsors of Japan Cricket, and the Japan Cricket Association itself for providing the environment and opportunities for me to develop as a player.
You will be playing alongside Bismah Maroof, Sophie Ecclestone, Sophia Dunkley, Ayabonga Khaka, Nicola Carey, and other stars. What are you looking to take away from the competition?
I look forward to testing my skills by playing alongside international stars.
Which is that one batter whose wicket you would like to take in the Fairbreak tournament?
Which is that one bowler whom you are looking forward to facing in the Fairbreak tournament?
Outside of cricket, what do you like to do in your free time?
Walk my dog!
What is your message to the young girls who are just starting out to play cricket in Japan?
Cricket is a fantastic game that can take you to all parts of the world and connect you with friends from so many countries. I hope it creates as many exciting opportunities for you as it has for me.
Loves all things female cricket