Drysdale’s Column: International Cricket
The scene was a dark and deserted Cambusdoon on a truly saturated Saturday in the summer of 2007. For the previous four days, the cricketers of Scotland and the United Arab Emirates had striven to dodge the myriad showers which blighted their Intercontinental Cup clash in Ayr.
But finally, everybody was forced to bow to the inevitable and the contest was put out of its misery with the UAE at 184 for 4 in their first innings. Those of us who had surveyed the intermittent action headed home with a sense of frustration and no little irritation as we struggled with serious traffic problems en route to Glasgow.
I remember cursing the cancellations at the railway station. A colleague joked we would have been better off catching a plane from nearby Prestwick Airport. But then, a passing Scotrail guard, who had heard our conversation, said quietly, cryptically: “Not today, you wouldn’t!”
The date was June 30.
It was only hours later that we learned of the drama which had unfolded, amidst an attempted terror attack, on the main building at Glasgow Airport. One moment, John Smeaton had been smoking a cigarette outside his workplace; the next, he rose to the challenge even as a flaming Jeep was driven into the terminal and subsequently told the media, during an interview that has become famous, that terrorists were not welcome in his home city.
“This is Scotland,” he declared. “We’ll set about you.”
Nearly a decade later, that memory should lend perspective to cricket’s importance in the grand scheme of things. For much of 2016, it seems I’ve been listening to denunciations of Scotland’s elite players, the alleged shortcomings of Cricket Scotland and incessant sniping from the sidelines about how the game is going to hell in a handcart.
And do you know, I’m getting sick of all the negativity and gloomy talk, especially from those who lack the requisite courage to stick their heads above the parapet and would rather bombard me with snippets of gossip which they offer as evidence of conspiracies within the governing body, which would be better suited to The X Files and Mulder and Scully than a minority pastime.
Of course, the administrators are not perfect. And, yes, it can be argued that the procrastination which preceded this week’s decision to switch the I-Cup from Mannofield back to Burns country, was the opposite of how professional sport should deal with these situations.
But the reality is that few could have anticipated the weather would be as consistently bad as it was in the north east throughout July. Not that it’s a unique phenomenon, given the sorry litany of abandoned fixtures – from the match at the Grange against the Australians in 2005 to that abortive I-Cup game two years later and a similarly rain-plagued tussle with Kenya in Aberdeen – which have piled up in Scotland in recent times.
Still, if the conditions relent, what matters now is that Grant Bradburn’s side secure a convincing win when they continue their faltering campaign on Tuesday. Anything else and it will be virtually impossible to catch Ireland and Afghanistan, the latter of whom thrashed the Dutch last week – almost the same Oranje team who beat their Scottish rivals earlier in the competition.
Personally, I’m a bit surprised by some of Bradburn’s selections. Does Calum MacLeod – who played in that truncated 2007 encounter – merit his place? Where are the likes of Andrew Umeed, Rob Taylor and Ruaidrhi Smith or, for that matter, Tom Bruce?
Indeed, if the ICC is serious about treating this event as a means of qualification to a future two-tier Test structure – a proposal which seems increasingly unlikely to happen – shouldn’t they make it mandatory for the counties to release Associate players to participate in it?
Cricket Scotland told me on Friday this was already the case, but the counties clearly don’t care about the regulation. Brad Wheal should be in the Scottish squad against the UAE, but he’s currently playing for Hampshire. The same applies to Ruaidhri Smith at Glamorgan. Once again, you have to wonder whether the ECB is as myopic as Mr Magoo!
Yet, for the moment, these are peripheral issues. If we are interested, as I suggested last week, in being part of the solution rather than the problem, we have to root for Preston Mommsen, Kyle Coetzer, Richie Berrington and their colleagues as they attempt to claw back the deficit on the leaders.
Sadly, there is unlikely to be a stampede for tickets in the days ahead. With the Olympic Games poised to start in Rio and the football season kicking off this weekend, we shouldn’t expect an excess of media coverage. That’s the reality of the situation in 2016, a far cry from the sport’s rising profile a decade ago.
But even if Caledonian cricket lacks a superstar figure in the mould of Andy Murray, Kath Grainger or Chris Hoy, it’s overdue for those who love the game to unite – even for the next week – in a common cause.
What’s the alternative?