When you think of cricket touring destinations, Vanuatu probably doesn’t instantly spring to mind.
But that’s exactly where Narrabri’s Tatts Cricket Club are heading in August.
The eight day tour will be the first the club has embarked on since 1987 when they went to New Zealand, and will encompass games against the Vanuatu men’s national team as well as school and village visits.
The concept of the tour was born from a casual chat after a cricket tournament mid-2016 between Tatts president Brendon Ward, and an old housemate of his Jono Dunn, who is a member of the national side.
“We were casually discussing how my club from Australia should come to Port Vila and play a few matches against the Vanuatu team - and what a great week of cricket it would be and a big adventure for some of the guys that haven't been overseas before,” Ward said.
From there Dunn got Ward in touch with the general manager of Vanuatu Cricket Association (VCA).
Grand finalists the last three seasons in the Narrabri competition, and premiers in 2015/2016, the playing contingent is predominantly from Tatts, with a couple of exceptions.
One notable one is South Tamworth and Tamworth skipper Tom Groth, who Ward said “has answered our call to come on tour and lend us a hand”.
The NSW Country keeper has come against some of the national Vanuatu players at the Australian Country Cricket Championships, as part of the East Asia Pacific (EAP) side.
Tatts top order batsman Tom Craig's nephew, Zac Craig is also joining the touring party.
A promising young all-rounder, Craig last season played fourth grade for South Tamworth along with his father Andy.
“We're pretty excited to have all three Craig's coming on tour and we're sure this is going to benefit Zac's game in the future,” Ward said.
“We're hoping Andy and Zac can put on another batting partnership like their first round match for South Tamworth last season when they teed off and notched a 130 odd run partnership, with Andy notching a century and Zac crafting a solid 44.”
The itinerary includes two 50 over matches against the national side, which will serve as warm-ups for them before they depart for South Africa to compete in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 tournament, and a T20 match against an invitational side.
General manager Pierre Chilia has also arranged for the group to visit a few schools, where they will be donating some cricket gear.
They will also be splitting up into smaller groups and heading off with some of the VCA Development Officers, who are all players from the national men’s team, and heading to schools and clubs to assist in running coaching and development clinics.
Regarded as a growing sport in Vanuatu, the VCA was recently recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the large increase in participants through all formats of cricket, following a spike of over 3000 from 2015 to 2016.