PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S GIANT-KILLING acts in the World Cup qualifying tournament has made many in the cricketing world stand up and take notice but the most renowned figure in their dressing room, former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, is not a bit surprised.
Having beaten former World Cup semi-finalists Kenya and Uganda, PNG now remain strong contenders for a spot in the tournament which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australian-bred wicketkeeper, like many of the players in the current line up, migrated to England in his teens and later went on to become a vital cog in England’s 2005 Ashes win. Jones is now playing for PNG, the place of his birth.
He revealed in an interview with the New Zealand Herald that he made up his mind to switch allegiance during England’s ill-fated Ashes whitewash of 2006/07, in which he was dropped midway through the campaign.
He said: “Once I was dropped by England, PNG got in touch and asked me if I would extend my career by playing for them”.
Jones showed his determination and appetite for the highest level during the time he sat out his four year qualification period.
Since making his debut in 2012, Jones has overseen PNG’s steady rise in the associates’ circuit, and he is enjoying it.
“To be honest I get just as much from these guys as I give them,” he said. “I would say it’s a bit of a refresher course for me. It’s a very simple way of playing and I do get hugely energised by being around the group when I go back to county cricket. It is a real boost for me.”
Jones believes one of the main reasons for PNG’s rise is the fact that they have been playing regular cricket and that should be the way forward if we have to see more associate teams compete with the Top 8 cricket playing nations.
Jones praised players who have played a vital part in their new found success: Lega Siaka, Assad Vala, new ball bowler Raymond Haoda and legspinner Charles Amini, who took six for 19 against Uganda.
Vala and Amini have now secured contracts with Brisbane Heat and Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League.
“The big thing is we’re confident in our bowling and fielding. We know we can keep teams down, and our batting has clicked so far.”
When quizzed on his carrier with England, Jones admits that he would have done things a little differently, “I peaked too early to be honest,” he said.
The 37 year-old who plies his trade with Kent in English County cricket is delighted to help his country of birth, as a player and as a mentor and believes that he should be a part of PNG on merit and not because he was a former England player.