It's been quite a summer for Craig Hogan, Jersey's National Coach. Hogan, affectionately known as 'Silvs' by his players, has seen Jersey's youth find unprecedented success in their European Division One cricket this summer, with best-ever finishes achieved at all age groups. As a result, despite seeing an Inter-Insular lost in Guernsey, there's been plenty for Craig to smile about. With the season at its end, I caught up with Jersey's 'Mr Cricket' to talk success, shoes and settling into Island life.
Firstly, having been here for a summer, what do you make of cricket in Jersey?
'There's a lot of cricket being played, which is a good thing. There's the ICC pathway (where Jersey play the national sides of other countries), which is superb for Jersey cricket. Before, we would have been in that situation where you had basically only one game, against Guernsey, whereas now we've got ICC competitions at all age groups, even going down to the Under-13s. There are a lot more kids playing cricket at the younger levels and so the base is growing, which means that at the top-end in five or six years time there's going to be a lot of good cricketers coming through.
Looking at it from the top, with the seniors and the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, there are some great opportunities. I mean, what better chance do you have of going to Nepal? These are the kind of fabulous opportunities that we have which weren't available four or five years ago, and that's all credit to the JCB for looking ahead to the future. Also, with the Under-15s,17s and 19s all doing really well in their European Championships, we can now show that we can actually compete with these high-performance countries, and the challenge will be to keep that going.'
You mention the success of the Under-15s, 17s and 19s. What have you done this year which has been key to that success?
'There are probably some little things, but it's more that the base is there. The grounding that all the players have had from the last three or four years, with technique and all the skill-work and fitness, has been a big factor. I suppose all that we've done this year is to formalise things a little bit more with our team plans and our game plans. We've had the individual talent before, but just being able to play more as a team has given us that chance to win some of those big games. When the pressure's on you've got to stick together, and Peter Gough and Chris Minty did that with the Under-15s in Dundee, and we did that also with the 17s and 19s. All the team things we've done have been great.'
How does the standard of cricket in Jersey compare to that in Australia? Can you make a comparison?
'Probably the only difference that we have here is that we have some quality players, but it's just that in Australia there are more of them. If you look at an Island like Jersey we've probably got five senior cricket teams, whereas in Australia we've probably got sixty or seventy. Therefore the number of players that are of a high standard is greater, and so the pressure to get into sides is also much greater. A couple of fellas from the Ireland side were asking 'How many players do you have to pick from at all these different age groups?' and I said 'Probably the starting XI and another ten.' That's about it. Whereas in Australia, with the stuff that I was doing with the Under-19s, I'd have three-hundred kids to pick from. That's the difference. There are just more of us!'
Imagine we are sitting here this time next year. Where do you want Jersey cricket to be? What is the long-term goal?
'We'll be hoping that we can finish 1st or 2nd at World Cricket League Division (WCL) 5 in Nepal which would put us into WCL 4 in Italy in 2010. Then we'd hope that we could get through again and get to WCL 3. If we could do that in the next few years it'd be super and would be great progress. It also means that there's a great opportunity for the players in the Under-17s and Under-19s in particular in the next two or three years. That's the pathway for them. Kids that are 16 or 17 at the moment should be looking at a senior spot this year or the year after. There's no doubt there's plenty of cricket to come. We've got the European Championships again next year, so that's three big tournaments coming up.'
And what about the juniors? Is it more of the same, consolidating their places in European Division One?
'Well, I think people are now going to take us a bit more seriously than in the past. It's like the second year of a footballer. People say 'Gee, that bloke can play a bit', and then the next year everyone says 'We better have a look at this bloke', and then it becomes much harder. And that's what's going to happen with us. It's going to be harder for us to keep those results going, but we should be able to do it because we've got the starting platform this year so now we've just got to make sure we keep going forwards.'
Moving away from cricket, let's talk about Jersey in general. How've you found living here, compared to Australia?
'It's good, it's all good! The people are very friendly and you can actually drive round for half a day without getting lost, which isn't too bad! Saying that, I'm waiting for the weather to warm up. Once the weather warms up I think we'll be alright!'
Could you choose a favourite place that you have in the Island?
'Well, I think Jersey is interesting because we're living over at Gorey where it's lovely, but then we go over to St Ouen's and you've got the surf beach there, and then up in St Peter's, in the hills, you can go into the countryside. There's different stuff everywhere. That's the best thing about it. You can actually get away, you can go to the beach, you can go and do a bit of fishing, you can play golf. There's plenty of things to do. Oh yes, and there's also Les Landes racecourse. You can mention that too!'
Finally: shoes. I hear that you own many pairs of shoes. If your house was burning down, which pair would you save?
(laughing) 'My big red trainers. Definitely my big red Jersey ones. They're the best.'