Death in Paradise – Scotland’s Caribbean World Cup
Neil Drsydale speaks to Majid Haq and look back 10 years to Caribbean World Cup campaign; a tournament which turned out to be the end of an era for one of the Scotland’s most popular group of players.
The Caribbean World Cup in 2007 was a campaign which started with dreams of upsetting the established order and ended in a series of demoralising defeats.
A decade ago, when Scotland’s cricketers embarked on a World Cup mission to the Caribbean, they seemed equipped to maintain the momentum which had steered them to the summit of the ICC Associates.
They had booked their qualification for the global tournament with a ruthless efficiency and effervescence, en route to triumph in the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005. And, bolstered by a squad which was packed with performers in the mould of Craig Wright, Ryan Watson, Paul Hoffmann, Majid Haq, Dougie Brown, Fraser Watts, Colin Smith and John Blain, their pre-World Cup assessments were upbeat.
International Heavyweight Clashes
Sadly, by the climax, such confidence reeked of Micawberish optimism. When I suggested to one of the squad in advance it would be difficult to entertain realistic thoughts of victory over Australia or South Africa, his response was: “Stop being so negative!”
Looking back, it was less a case of pessimism than pragmatism. Even though the Scots were gaining ample experience of meeting English county opponents on a regular basis at that stage, they were denied regular tussles with the game’s elite. And it showed. Thrust into the spotlight, the results against the two Southern Hemisphere Test sides were exactly what you would have expected.
The Australians won by 203 runs; a margin with which it’s impossible to quibble. They amassed 334 for 6, with Ricky Ponting striking 113, and Matthew Hayden 60, although Haq took the latter’s wicket and snared Michael Clarke as well.
Soon enough, the Scots were being blown away by the pace of Shaun Tait, who picked up six wickets in an explosive burst. Colin Smith struck seven 4s during a sparkling half-century, but the rest struggled as the underdogs succumbed for 131.
There was a similar theme against the South Africans, who restricted their opponents to 186 for 8, with nobody apart from Dougie Brown – with an unbeaten 45 – offering any significant contribution against an attack containing Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis.
Graeme Smith and AB De Villiers then rattled up 134 inside 16 overs and while the wily Haq claimed another two victims in Smith and Ashwell Prince, the contest was finished with fewer than half of the Proteas’ 50-over allocation needing to be bowled.
So far, so predictable. But it was in their third and final match, where the Scots were demolished by The Netherlands, that signs of something amiss in the camp really surfaced.
The eight-wicket margin was bad enough, but worse still was the capitulation of the Scottish batting line-up, who were dismissed for 136 and only managed that paltry total through tail-end contributions from Blain and Glenn Rogers.
Bas Zuiderent (43 not out) and Ryan ten Doeschate (70 not out) duly compiled a quickfire century stand and the rout was emphatic. It was a desperate end to a dismal campaign, and it happened at the same time as Ireland were beating Pakistan and demonstrating their relish for springing World Cup shocks.
In the aftermath, the Scottish all-rounder, Ian Stanger, was scathing about his compatriots’ attitude, claiming some members of the party had treated the World Cup as a Caribbean holiday. And, ten years later, Haq explained there were tensions behind the scenes.
He said: “We had a last-minute change to the squad with my cousin, Omer Hussain, getting dropped in place of newly-qualified Glenn Rogers.
“That was poor management, picking an overseas player in place of a homegrown player who was in top form. Unfortunately, that decision to leave Omer out scarred his cricket career and it took him a long time to come back.
“We had a good tournament in Kenya in January 2007 where we got to the final only to lose to the hosts. We had some excellent last-over wins against Ireland, Holland and Canada which showed the strength of character of the squad.
“But, once the World Cup started, it was very disappointing and it felt like some guys had run out of gas and were just happy to be there in the Caribbean instead of being ambitious enough to compete right to the end.
“We were up against two of the best teams in the world in Australia and South Africa who were both formidable sides with world-class players throughout the squad. We matched them for periods of the game, but unfortunately not long enough before they upped a gear and beat us in both games comprehensively.
“Both teams showed us how good you have to be if you want to succeed at the highest level.
“However, the game that was the real disappointment was the Dutch match. They won a good toss and put us in, then they bowled very well and took their opportunities before Ten Doeschate played a classy knock and they cruised home.
“Wrighty resigned straight after the tournament to be succeeded by Ryan Watson. After that, under Ryan’s captaincy, we went backwards. There were lots of issues in the background with Roddy Smith and coach Peter Drinnen and some senior players who ousted him, because he was going to bring in the youngsters which the senior players didn’t want.
“Unfortunately, for Drinnen, player power removed him from his job and Cricket Scotland brought in Peter Steindl, who was nowhere ready to be a international coach.
“We also lost our major sponsor Lloyds TSB which hampered the organisation’s progress further. And we have been without a major sponsor for the past 10 years and have been relying on handouts from the ICC and SportScotland.”
The Aftermath & Decline
It’s difficult to overstate the impact of that World Cup collapse on the decline of Scottish cricket since the heady days of 2005. As matters stand, they are now well behind Afghanistan and Ireland in the ICC pecking order, and have been denied the quality of fixtures to help them improve.
They no longer have access to the English counties, are struggling to compile any meaningful fixture list and, despite boasting a clutch of talented youngsters, are stuck in limbo. That helped explain why their captain, Preston Mommsen, retired last season at the age of 29.
As one former player said this week: “We were playing Sri Lanka in an ODI at The Grange six years ago. Now, Cricket Scotland is agreeing to take part in warm-up games with SL, which don’t even have ODI status. And they’re in Kent. That isn’t progress.”
The ICC haven’t helped the Scots. Another former player Paul Hoffmann added: “The only way the Associates can improve is for the people who run the sport to give the emerging nations a structure which allows them to develop their cricket.
“The current format just smacks of self-interest and a few teams dictating what happens.”
Scotland did reach another World Cup in 2015 and contested six matches without breaking their duck, squandering a glorious opportunity to beat Afghanistan in the process. It was a microcosm of how their fortunes have gone since 2007: promise, potential, possibilities, but the inability to achieve the only currency which the ICC understands. Namely, victories.
It will be a long, hard road back. With hindsight, that Caribbean odyssey was more like an episode of “Death in Paradise”.