Friday 30th November 2018

Our training session this morning went really well. Friendship Oval is in outstanding condition and a huge thank you must be given to everyone involved in the preparations. The team had an hour in the nets and an hour in the field. It was encouraging to see all the players supporting one another and approaching both sessions with enthusiasm and intent.

All eyes were on new squad member, Grant Russ. His accurate bowling, sound batting technique and agility in the field will certainly be an asset in the week ahead. Vimal and Ruchir were rolling out a good variety of deliveries, whilst Danny Smith and Sunny Singh found great rhythm through the crease. Manoj had all the batsmen tangled up with his cutters, swingers and slower balls.

Our batsmen were finding the middle of the bat on a regular basis. The depth of our batting stretches a long way down the order and if we can adjust to the different match situations then I know we will be able to post some significant scores.

Immediately after an official ICC function this evening we had a team meeting facilitated by Mark (coach), Faisal (general manager) and me. A lot of material was covered relating to the culture we aspire to cultivate, the values we believe are integral to our success and a deep and honest reflection on what it actually means to represent the Philippines and play at international level. All members of the squad were given the opportunity to talk about their journey towards this tournament and their overall involvement with Filipino cricket. It was truly fascinating and inspiring to hear the stories of everyone in the group: we laughed and listened and learnt about each other and about what this game means to us all. All these narratives have reached a point of intersection, here on the eve of the first ever international cricket tournament in The Philippines. Before departing for dinner we agreed on a catch cry for the week – “Sama-sama tayo,” meaning “Together as one.” Our belief in each other and in the Philippines will serve us well in the week ahead.

Tomorrow we play our first game against South Korea.

Let’s go, Philippines! See you all at Friendship Oval.

–Jono

Thursday 29th November 2018

It all started with an email to the Philippine Cricket Association (PCA) back in 2011. I explained my passion for cricket and my experience and expressed a keen interest to somehow be involved with cricket in the Philippines, the homeland of my mum.

Within a day a gentleman by the name of Iain Sinclair replied. Little did I know that correspondence would begin a journey that would take me to different corners of the globe competing at the international level, introduce me to a community of people who are fiercely passionate about cricket, and awaken inside me a deep desire to connect authentically with my Filipino heritage.

It has been a busy couple of days since flying from Sydney to Manila. The flight was delayed for three hours. It gave me and a new Filipino national team player, Grant Russ, from Townsville in Queensland, the chance to get to know one another and share stories from our cricketing past.

I spent my first night in Manila with Karweng Ng and his wife, Hannah. Wanga and I have been roommates on tour ever since Hong Kong in 2015. It was great to catch up with him, see where he lives and finally meet his lovely wife. I had planned to do some shopping on my first day in the Philippines but a combination of jet lag, the crippling humidity and smog got the better of me. I slept instead. I felt much better by the afternoon and was ready for a hit with Wanga and newly appointed national coach, Mark Pekin. We used the tennis courts at the International School Manila where Mark works as the Sports Coordinator. There was something surreal about being on top of a high rise building overlooking the bright lights of Manila, using a bowling machine on a tennis court and backing yourself to keep balanced and hit through the line. By the end of our one and a half hour session we were dripping with sweat. It felt great to get bat on ball.

This morning PCA general manager Faisal Khan and I attended a media conference at the National Press Club. The journalists showed a genuine interest in cricket and were hungry to know about the team, our chances of success and some of the basic principles of the game. Faisal and I really enjoyed the experience. It’s easy to talk about a game I love and a team of players who are united in their love of cricket and the Philippines. I feel immensely proud to lead them.

We arrived in Tagatay this afternoon. All of the national teams are staying at The Serviced Residences at Kasa Luntian. The apartments are spacious and there is plenty of room to stretch and roll.

This evening we had a team dinner at the hotel restaurant. Conversation bubbled along as we reflected on the last tournament in Bendigo, Australia, and openly expressed our goals for the week ahead. Tomorrow we have an official team training at the ground in Cavite. I can’t wait. It’s all about to get very real.

Jono