Drysdale’s Column – Village Cup & More
Nothing stands still in life and cricket is no exception. The time was when Freuchie’s redoubtable characters would have swaggered into a meeting with near-neighbours, Falkland, confident they would gain bragging rights and an easy victory.
Yet it’s a long time since Dave Christie and his buccaneering band surged to an unprecedented triumph in the National Village Cup at Lords in 1985. At that stage, they weren’t merely a force at the grassroots, but one of the strongest clubs in Scotland: a thriving organisation which produced players of the calibre of Dave Cowan and Scott Gourlay.
Sadly, from their perspective, the pendulum has shifted in the last decade. It’s Falkland, a club who pursue their passion in one of the most picturesque settings anywhere in the game who are in the Eastern Premier Division, while their fellow Fifers have withered on the vine to the point where fears were expressed for their very survival. And while that dire prospect has been averted, at least in the short term, there is no doubt that Freuchie will be the underdogs when they tackle Falkland at home on Sunday.
It promises to be an absorbing contest, although the hosts will have to produce something special to progress in the tournament. They still have Gourlay in their ranks and I’m not the only person who believes this gifted all-rounder was scandalously underused by Scotland. But, in most other respects, they lack the heady mixture of brio, bravado, rampant young guns and wise old heads who emerged at the top of the heap from a starting list of 639 back in the 80s.
Hopefully, though, the fixture will convey the myriad qualities of the sport in these parts and attract some positive publicity in a summer where football refuses to go away and is dominating both front and back pages, whether the headlines concern Scottish Cup riots, Jose Mourinho – and his image rights – or the forthcoming European Championships, which lasts from June 10 to July 10.
Even before the 2016 season began, I warned that cricket would struggle to gain coverage in competition with the Euros, the Olympic Games, Open Championship – in Troon – and the staples of Wimbledon and Royal Ascot. And that doesn’t just apply to Scotland. Last Saturday, for instance, Sri Lanka were so comprehensively thrashed by England that even Sky’s commentators sounded underwhelmed.
You can’t often say that about David Lloyd, but Bumble knows a mismatch when had sees it and the inexperienced Sri Lankan line-up, shorn of Sangakkara, Jayawardena and Malinga, are simply rabbits trapped in the headlights of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
In that regard, cricket has to accentuate the positives and a packed tussle between Freuchie and Falkland fits the bill perfectly. Not that the visitors are interested in anything except progressing to the next round and – as they did last summer – rattling a few cages South of the Border.
As their redoubtable spokesman Paul Watson told me this week: “We hope we can build on last year’s adventure, which had everybody at the club hooked and included two away trips to the north of England, where we took a large following. We hope to repeat that in 2016.
“We do, however, have to win the Scottish section first and that starts on Sunday against our nearest and dearest rivals; Freuchie CC.
“They have fallen upon some hard times of late which has been captured in both local and national media. Nobody at Falkland CC wants to see our local rivals (and friends) struggling but they seem to have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and have started the season pretty well.
“I can guarantee they will be up for it on Sunday, Muir Road will be jumping and we’ll get the usual hostile welcome from the locals.
“Any game against Freuchie is one the boys want to play in….and win of course. We will have a strong following who are making the short journey, so Freuchie CC had better have the bar well stocked.”
It promises to be another clash of local heroes and the weather forecast is set fair. If you fancy sampling a flavour of the potent brew which is Scottish cricket in the raw, why not head across to the Kingdom!
It’s good to see Scotland’s youngsters excelling in different forms of the game. CricIndex has already highlighted the achievements of Andrew Umeed this week, who showed his class during a sparkling maiden first-class century for Warwickshire against Durham.
And teenager Tom Sole was in magnificent swashbuckling form on the T20 stage for the Eastern Knights on Tuesday, hitting a boundary-studded 79 from just 42 balls, then taking three wickets to power his side to a resounding victory.
We love spreading the word about these uplifting exploits, so get in touch if you want to tell us about other performances of note.