Japan qualified for the U-19 ICC World Cup in bizarre fashion when it was revealed that their final against Papua New Guinea to be held in the Japanese city of Sano had been called off due to Cricket PNG suspending eleven of the 14 players in the squad.

Cricket PNG cited “internal disciplinary reasons and failing to adhere to our strict codes of conduct” as the cause of the suspensions but the reason for such strict action was later revealed to be that those players had been caught shoplifting.

A report in the ABC Pacific Beat described the incidents as a “crime spree”, adding that the players were released only after intensive diplomatic negotiations between Japan and PNG.

“Parents will be briefed first and foremost and brought up to speed with what’s gone on. From there they’ll be an internal investigation then they’ll obviously be sanctions and bans and what not that flows on from there once we’ve got right to the bottom of who’s involved, (and) who…the ring leaders (are),” CPNG Head Coach Joe Dawes – who was not in Japan – told ABC.

“The local police, the ICC, the EAP regional staff, everyone’s been brilliant with this. Young men have made some mistakes, but they (the police/ICC etc) have been really good with them, we’ve been able to get an outcome where the boys are on their way home.

“Not only does this rob the four guys who didn’t do the wrong thing, but there’s (lost World Cup qualification) funding attached with that, there will be fines from the ICC, there’s a lot of consequences that will come out of this yet, and hopefully all our sponsors will stick by us as well.

“99% of the people are all for strict punishments and discipline which we will be doing, but we will also be doing our best to see if we can educate the kids and bring them back into the fold at some stage,” Dawes summed up.

PNG had entered the final as favourites but the forfeit was a historic occasion for Japan as they will now play in their first ever ICC tournament – in any age group or format.