Drysdale’s Column: Affiliate ODI Action
It’s not surprising there has been plenty of soul-searching since Scotland lost their ODI series against Afghanistan this week. Old grievances have resurfaced, including the lack of fixtures bring offered to the Scots – and the Dutch – by the ICC and one senses and understands the seething frustration of Preston Mommsen whenever he talks about trying to build momentum for the future.
But – and we can’t simply keep blaming everybody else – there are other crucial issues which are stalling the development of the sport in Scotland. Such as the marked disconnection between those who run the game in Edinburgh and those working their backsides off to spark success stories at the grassroots.
I was approached this week by officials connected to several ambitious and aspirational clubs in the north of the country and quietly, methodically, they catalogued the fashion in which they believe their efforts have been undermined by a failure of central belt-based administrators to grasp two crucial issues. Firstly, that cricket can’t thrive across the whole of Caledonia without every progressive organisation buying into Cricket Scotland’s vision.
And what that might be, you might ask? Which brings us to the second point: that, try as I might to grasp a grand plan for the future, I can’t get a handle on it. Everything at the moment – from the chop-change nature of club competitions to international team selection to lack of commercial savvy and symbiosis between fans and administrators speaks to the glaring absence of a coherent strategy for steering us out of our present morass.
I spoke to Cricket Scotland’s chief executive, Malcolm Cannon, for CricIndex, at the start of the season and he assured me of his determination to create closer bonds with the clubs who ultimately unearth the Kyle Coetzers, Richie Berringtons and Mommsens of this world.
He sounded sincere and I have no reason to doubt he was genuine about spreading the gospel wherever he could. But there again, I don’t run a club in the north east and I don’t witness the problems faced by those who do so at close quarters.
However, somebody who DOES contacted me with a blunt assessment of how Cricket Scotland has talked the talk without walking the walk. They told me – and I have honoured their request for anonymity for very good reasons – that while there has been a positive commitment from the governing body to encourage youngsters to take up the game, the process only goes so far.
Then, they continued: “I coach children in the Highlands. And I can tell you categorically that these kids struggle to get noticed when it comes to playing at development and national level.
“Most coaches are in the central belt, so that means no one sees the talent from this area. I went to a meeting six years ago in Aberdeen. At that meeting, I asked who looks at kids from this area, and they gave me a blank look, before replying ‘We don’t visit clubs to look for talent’.
“This is why Scottish sport and not only cricket, all sport in Scotland, will never get anywhere. All players should have an equal right to represent their country in whatever sport they choose. Having no venues to coach in winter and during the off-season does not help matters. The governing body should make sure there is at least one venue which is theirs and theirs alone to develop up-and-coming players. Given the climate, it has to be well worth the investment.
“Make sure that accommodation can be supplied and that camps can be set up for development. And another thing, what is the use of players who have never played in Scotland or even lived in Scotland being parachuted into national squads? What are they saying, that we have not got the talent to fill our own squads with young talented players? If these players have Scottish roots, fair enough. But let them at least contribute to the Scottish leagues before they play for Scotland.”
I know some people will respond that many domestic clubs have been reluctant to work in and around their local communities and there’s some truth in that assertion. Several organisations, including East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Forfarshire, Ferguslie, Nairn, Dumfries, Falkland and Kinross, have been at the forefront of positive developments and going out and actively selling cricket’s appeal. But too many others have been content to keep their doors closed and use an ex-directory telephone number.
In the current climate, that philosophy won’t encourage anything except a culture of stagnation, depression and despair. But that still doesn’t excuse the myriad deficiencies of Cricket Scotland in transforming the mindset with some truly exciting, innovative plans, which go beyond simply blaming the global panjandrums.
Ireland has managed it. So – in much more difficult circumstances – has Afghanistan and I don’t begrudge either team the financial help they have recently received from the ICC.
As for Scotland, the message has to be: winning is better than whingeing. Whether on or off the pitch!