Scotland Blow Hot and Cold in Desert

Neil Drysdale returns with his analysis of Scotland’s cricket tour to UAE and asks if it’s time for the Scots to be more radical with their future planning.

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It seems that governance questions are all over the news these days. And even if the future of Associate cricket might not command the same headlines as Brexit and whither an Indyref 2, it matters to plenty of us.

Scotland’s winter odyssey, where they participated in the T20 Desert Challenge as the prelude to playing in a Tri-Nations series, was unquestionably a tale of two halves. Grant Bradburn’s men won their first three games against Hong Kong, The Netherlands and Oman, but they collapsed thereafter with consecutive defeats to Ireland and, perhaps more worryingly given it was in the 50-over format, Hong Kong and the UAE.

“Scotland were very impressive in their 3 wins and were looking really strong; it made the heavy losses that followed hard to take.” – CricIndex Editor

These losses weren’t even close. The Irish, who were subsequently annihilated in the T20 final by Afghanistan, beat their Celtic rivals by 98 runs, while HK, who are ranked below the Scots, cruised to their 206 target for the loss of just three men.

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Afterwards, there has been some attempts to make excuses for the Scots, but the reality is they headed to Dubai with almost their strongest squad and had a string of performers who have appeared on the world stage, including Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod and Richie Berrington, and a sizeable crop of players who earn their trade in England.

They could and should have regarded reaching the semi-finals as a minimum target on their trip. Yes, they managed it, but to collapse from 72 for 1 to 113 all out against Ireland was desperately disappointing. The two longer-form losses were even more disturbing, since they were against countries whom the Scots have to get the better of, if they hope to galvanise the ICC to schedule more high-profile fixtures.

In the circumstances, Bradburn – whose contract expires this year – will be fortunate if he remains in post. He has plenty of youthful talent at his disposal, but doesn’t seem to know how to capitalise on it. When you have somebody with Craig Wallace’s attaching menace, why on earth would you bat him at No 8?

But the bottom line is that Scotland and Ireland need to recognise the way things are going. Afghanistan are now comfortably the cream of the Associates – for which they deserve much credit – and it will be relatively easy to subsume them into Asian-based competitions, involving the likes of Bangladesh and the UAE.

That leaves the Scots and Irish with major questions. They should try to get teams entered into the English T20 tournament, but that probably isn’t going to happen. So the next best motion is to create a cricket-style equivalent of Rugby’s Pro 12.

I’m well aware that my friends at Cricket Scotland (pause for hollow laughter) keep responding they don’t have the money to invest in lavish plans. But the truth is they don’t have an alternative.

As one retired Scotland star told me last week: “As long as we don’t have a fixture list, we are going nowhere.” This is the main problem. But if there were two sides apiece from Scotland, Ireland and The Netherlands meeting home and away over five or six weekends, possibly with a grand final, it would at least provide the elite with a few high-profile occasions.

You could grow a competition from such basic roots. You could gradually transform it into a Europe-wide event. The alternative – that the governing bodies just keep begging to the ICC – simply isn’t credible.

And I’m speaking as a passionate Scot who wants to see us winning. The seedbed of talent is there, so why are the results so poor?

The status quo isn’t an option!

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