Scotland’s Elimination – What Happens Now?

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Another global tournament, another expectant build-up and another crushing anti-climax for Scotland’s cricketers. You might suppose those of us who love the game would be accustomed to disappointment by now, but that doesn’t ease the pain of the Scots’ elimination at the World T20 qualifying event in India.

The common response to such setbacks in Scottish sport tends to involve instant calls for retribution and resignations, whether of coaches or players – or both – but cricket aficionados need to recognise the bigger picture after this week’s defeats to Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and acknowledge that searching for scapegoats isn’t going to improve the situation.

By and large, the squad picked by Grant Bradburn and captained by Preston Mommsen was the best the Scots could muster in 2016. You can quibble with the omission of Majid Haq, or the continued selection of Calum MacLeod, or even query whether Mommsen should be in the T20 ranks at all. But these are side issues compared with the more pressing issue of where the sport goes from here in Scotland.

Because the stark truth is there are no quick fixes or overnight transformations on the horizon. The number of high-profile fixtures in Scotland this summer amounts to a big fat zero and, given the rival
attractions of the European Football Championship – even minus Gordon Strachan’s men – and the Olympic Games, cricket’s public and media profile will continue to shrink.

None of us at CricIndex want that scenario. Instead, we aim to be part of the solution, not the problem. So here are five steps which might just help to orchestrate a brighter future for the summer game in Scotland.

SET UP A EUROPEAN LEAGUE

This notion has been mooted in the past, but with Scotland, The Netherlands and Ireland all losing in India this week, any room for procrastination has disappeared. Asian cricket is patently moving in a different, more prosperous direction from the game in Europe and there is no point in pretending to have a professional structure without regular matches for the leading lights.

What’s required is a Five or Six Nations event, involving Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Wales, a Euro Select and the England Lions.

If the ECB is serious about helping cricket’s development across the whole country and region in which they play, let’s see some urgency from them in assisting their Associate neighbours. And let’s forget the grandiose talk from Ireland about pursuing Test status. At the moment, they are toiling as much as anybody else with an antiquated structure.

It needs resolved or the various governing bodies will have to tear up the pro contracts and revert to part-time or amateur status. At which stage, the ball is really burst.

TALK DIRECTLY TO THE CLUBS

Cricket Scotland receives a lot of flak and, heaven knows, some of it is justified. In the last decade, much as happened in rugby, the grassroots circuit has been left to wither on the vine. There was the SNCL, then the Eastern and Western Conference, a Scottish Cup with group matches and  a straight knock-out format. It has been a complete guddle.

Once CS return from India, they should convene a national conference on the future of the game at ALL levels and do so quickly. And, here’s an idea, why not start with a blank piece of paper? It isn’t in anybody’s interests for matters to stagnate any more. We all need a clear, coherent structure. Which brings me to my third point.

CREATE A NATIONAL 20/20 EVENT

If it’s good enough for the rest of the world, why not Scotland? And please don’t keep raising the weather!

With some prescience and ambition, the Scots could devise an integrated regional 20/20 event for both elite clubs and smaller organisations.

The first weekend would see matches in the north, south, east and west with the winners progressing to a grand finals day at a suitable venue. Let’s agree on the central principle, then we can thrash out the exact details in time for a 2017 launch.

It needs a sponsor and an innovative approach by clubs across the whole country and, of course, there might be teething problems or a need for umbrellas at some stage. But just think what it could do to encourage kids and their parents to return to cricket grounds and especially if the fixtures were backed up by barbecues and other amenities.

People might know I am not the biggest fan of 20/20. But can we really afford to ignore a format which is being embraced by the rest of the globe from Jersey to Oman?

ENCOURAGE ALL THE TALENT

Back in 2003, I wrote a piece for The Herald magazine about the exciting crop of young Scots-Asian cricketers who were rising through the domestic system. It seemed the sport might really benefit from the development of talents in the mould of Qasim Sheikh, Omer Hussain, Zeeshan Bashir and their colleagues.

Sadly, that process appears to have stalled. Majid Haq and Safyaan Sharif are the only two players to truly make their mark on the international senior stage and the former is no longer in his country’s squad for reasons which have nothing to do with cricket. It’s not what one might have envisaged 10 or 12 years ago.

There is fault on both sides if you look at some of the individual cases. But what is undeniable is that Scotland needs to tap into every area where the game is enjoyed. To be fair, greater progress has been made in cricket than some other games.

But that inclusivity has to be more than just a buzzword in the future.

THE CLUBS MUST WAKE UP

There are plenty of progressive organisations across the country, including the likes of Glenrothes, East Kilbride, Falkland and Arbroath United. But there are other clubhouses which seem to be shrouded in perpetual gloom, and whose officials do nothing to spread the gospel in their own communities.

That attitude of always blaming somebody else has to change and clubs not only have to make positive headlines on and off the pitch, they have to publicise them as well.

For too long, the philosophy has been: “Why do the media ignore us?” Expressed simply, life has moved on and the days of newspapers covering matches across Scotland has pretty much vanished for ever.

Cricket can still attract readers and viewers, but it must be more imaginative to survive.

What are your ideas for improving Scottish cricket? Please let us know.

11 Replies to "Scotland's Elimination - What Happens Now?"

  • comment-avatar
    Hugh Little
    March 10, 2016 (5:41 pm)
    Reply

    I think that your ideas are all worthy of immediate thought and analysis Neil. 20/20 is a must have now, whatever the “purists” say, they just have to find a way to schedule it – all Sundays from May to September should be full of cricket! Plans need to be bigger and more exciting, investment and therefore sponsors need to be bigger and sponsors need to be more engaged with the game in Scotland – and the sponsors are out there, especially to support an exciting strategy, but most clubs seem to think that a sign at their ground for £100 a year is a result! Clubs also too focussed on their own survival rather than building cricket within the community, too short-termist, too hand to mouth. The game in Scotland generally lacks someone with a vision and a strategy to really grow the game, it seems to be all about survival. Bigger picture thinking required.

  • comment-avatar
    Neil Leitch
    March 10, 2016 (5:50 pm)
    Reply

    Scotland already have a National 20/20 competition with regíonal qualifiers.

  • comment-avatar
    bill Lothian
    March 10, 2016 (8:41 pm)
    Reply

    Look closely at the Scottish rugby model – then do the opposite.

  • comment-avatar
    Neil Drysdale
    March 11, 2016 (12:52 am)
    Reply

    Some people have pointed out that Scotland already has a national 20/20 competition. I know that and credit to Murgitroyd for getting behind it. But I’m envisaging something on a completely different scale. Namely a whole month of Sunday 20/20 action across the country, not just at elite level but among the county’s smaller clubs and emerging women’s teams. And emphasis across the country on clubs promoting their home matches as community events for the whole family. This would culminate in a national finals day for men and women and the two best small clubs. This needs proper marketing, promotion and support from the clubs, but it can help spread cricket’s appeal if there is enough ambition.
    It’s disappointing that I’m hearing little tonight that’s positive. Scottish cricket needs a constructive debate about the way forward, but the status quo is NOT an option!

    • comment-avatar
      Gary Wilkinson
      March 11, 2016 (1:46 pm)
      Reply

      Glenrothes and Marchmont CCs proposed a T20 league at the last ESCA AGM. Perhaps someone can add the proposal here and the reasons why it was decided not to adopt the idea.

  • comment-avatar
    Gary
    March 11, 2016 (11:01 am)
    Reply

    Mommsens comments are from the heart and reflect the reality of Scottish cricket. I do however wonder how much more inspiring those same words would have been if they had been used going into the tournament. Everyone likes an underdog and I can imagine how those same words could have been turned to our advantage in a “lets show them” team talk. Perhaps that was the focus of the pre match build up in the dressing rooms, we may never know, but great sporting upsets have normally come from the desire to cause that upset. .

  • comment-avatar
    Scott Russell
    March 11, 2016 (1:43 pm)
    Reply

    Great article. I would love to see the arrest in Scottish performance but sadly believe that many things need to change to achieve this. The suggestions above all have merit.

    My biggest issue is access to sport. In my opinion there still remains a culture whereby cricket is seen as a game for some and not for all. Read into this what you want but I would suggest gaining support in middle class suburbs is far easier than getting support in areas of deprivation. We really need to break down this barrier and get more kids involved in the game. It appears to me that we are still failing in getting support from mainstream schools despite the fantastic work that some clubs (I would extend the list of clubs noted above to include many more) and Cricket Development Officials are undertaking. Unfortunately too many clubs have no interest in promoting cricket at local schools despite Active School Co-ordinators falling over themselves to introduce other sports to their calendar. I believe that if clubs want to survive they need to be at the heart of a promotion of introducing cricket to all.

    • comment-avatar
      Gary
      March 11, 2016 (2:16 pm)
      Reply

      Good stuff Scott but I think there are other issues surrounding youth cricket. Firstly all of the clubs that go round their local schools do a great job and that is certainly helped by the work of Active schools. My only concern is that we have become totally focused on the P5/P6 age groups which turn up in the local schools Kwik Cricket tournaments. I would suggest these kids are too young to be considered as potential future club members. Perhaps one or two will find a local club but I do wonder how many more potential members we could find if there was a more strategic approach to targeting the 14, 15 and 16 year old who have perhaps become disenchanted with football, rugby, hockey etc. I accept they have no cricket skills but they will have a sporting brain, hand eye coordination etc and importantly for some clubs could actually be a shirt filler from day 1 to experiance what the game is about unlike a P5/6 who will spend 3 or 4 years catching tennis balls.

      The significance of T20 plays a big part in this age group transition between sports.as its quick and not time consuming. Introduction to cricket for teenagers needs a totally new approach to training and playing and the clubs that can develop that wlil win big time.

  • comment-avatar
    Alec Davies
    March 12, 2016 (7:39 pm)
    Reply

    So what are our priorities? We want success at all levels, mass participation, high class coaching at all levels, strong clubs, good links with schools, quality facilities and pitches for competition and training,etc etc etc Cricketscotland is all things to all people and who pays for it all?,There must come a time where you can’t break through the’glass ceiling’ and except you can only go as far as you can. If you put more resources into one area of development people complain about it.
    Anyhow for what it is worth, I think competition against the ‘A’ teams of test playing nations would be hugely beneficial to our players. I remember being part of a Scotland squad which played against Australia A in a series of matches in 1998 which included players with lots of international experience in our education to play at the top level. I believe it was funded by the ICC.
    The other point is I think our bowlers are not technically good enough at this level and therefore unable to produce the variations needed under pressure. The batting looks solid to be fair and with more experience can do a decent job
    Just some thoughts but it needs more debate!

  • comment-avatar
    Rob Thornton
    March 12, 2016 (9:45 pm)
    Reply

    Gary is spot on re age groups – kwik cricket is brilliant entry level but Scottish p5s and 6s who are going to be world level at any sport still have ambitions that will be in football or rugby. When they are 14-16 they have been eaten up and spat out by the pro youth system because they aren’t Lionel Messi and rugby equivalent and are totally disenchanted, but are athletes and this is when we have an opportunity. There is no such thing as a football season any more, I call it a football year, but we have this little 3 month window, weather permitting. And then we stop for the school holidays!!!! My ideas; 1) We need to stop moaning about the weather and get interesting competitive elite indoor cricket on the agenda. In the 20 plus years I have played and coached in Scotland I have always thought the indoor played here is a joke and Aussie style indoor cricket centres across the country would work, or indoor five a side football pitches marked with cricket pitches up the middle, with adult competitions and targeting high schools during school terms year round. We have to take cricket indoors in a modern way in Scotland and the skills it develops are phenomenonal, 2) from under11s to under 15, 16s and 17s keep playing through the summer holidays even if you have to invite 22 lads from different clubs to get a game. Just do it! and/or organise festivals for these age groups, not just Kwik Cricket e.g over the holidays invite four evenly matched under 15, 16 or 17 teams from around the country play a two day 20/20 comp in Stirling, particularly if they are out of the cup, or even better a 50 over competition 3) premiership level clubs have to focus on their second XIs and include at least 7 under 18s with a captain/senior players committed to their development. These are those kid’s 50 over opportunities to play a good level of cricket and get thrown in at the deep end. I appreciate the opportunity to have a forum to get these ideas written down, cheers, Rob

  • comment-avatar
    Graham dodds
    March 13, 2016 (9:21 pm)
    Reply

    Time the game was played for all and not just for some ,when cricket Scotland will not let shared teams in to youth Scottish cups, says it all for me.


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