Craig Wright: Off to Pastures New
Craig Wright has admitted that he will feel pretty disorientated next week when he embarks on the next chapter of his cricketing life.
The 41-year-old former Scotland captain, talismanic all-rounder, coach and mentor to many of his country’s brightest talents, has been such a pivotal figure throughout the last 17 or 18 years that it’s difficult to imagine him working antwhere else.
Yet, ever since it was confirmed that he was leaving Cricket Scotland at the end of March, he has been crossing the ts and dotting the is on his new role in another associate outpost.
And Wright has now spoken exclusively about his new adventure to Cricindex, even as he packs his cases and gets ready for a rapid relocation.
He said on Thursday night: “I head off to Hong Kong on Tuesday and start work as the head coach of Hong Kong CC on August 1, so it is going to be hectic in the next week.
“I am extremely excited about the challenge of living and working in a different environment. My full-time role is with HKCC, but it is possible that, at some stage in the future, I may have the opportunity to do some work with the Hong Kong national side.
“Clearly, it is a crucial period coming up for Associate cricket, with the proposed changes to the structure of the international game, which are currently being discussed by the ICC.
“Hopefully, in the near future, these discussions will lead to increased opportunities for the best-performing Associate nations. Hong Kong are now an established force among the Associates and those involved in the current set-up are fiercely ambitious to see the sport develop further in that country and give themselves the best chance of taking advantage of ant improved pathways which are put in place.”
Wright has always been one of the most enthusiastic, committed and talented players ever to perform for his country. And undoubtedly the most successfully. He led Scotland to victory in the Intercontinental Cup, skippered them as they demolished every other Associate rival – including Ireland – en route to triumphing in the 2005 ICC Trophy and although that victory ended up seeing the Scots drawn against Australia and South Africa at the 2007 World Cup, Wright kept working tirelessly even when his back threatened to pack up.
It was characteristic of the man that he always put results above individual achievements. But there were plenty of the latter as well, with Wright taking six wickets to steer Scotland to a wonderful win over Worcester in the 1998 NatWest Trophy, as the prelude to leading the newly-formed Saltires into some stirring acts of derring-do when they joined the Totesport League in 2003.
In these days, he was always as keen as mustard and ready to roll with the punches. He and Indian maestro Rahul Dravid got on famously when they turned out in the same side and colours.
As he told me later: “It was a joy to work with him, but there again, it was a joy to work with that team. We loved going out there and testing ourselves against the English counties and winning three of our first four games [without Dravid] really got people talking, even those who weren’t normally interested in the game. That was a great memory. Actually, when I look back, there were plenty of them.”
That will be my abiding recollection of Craig Wright. Even when I was critical of one or two of the Saltires’ performances, he was happy to agree to disagree and chew the fact about the pursuit he has graced.
There were never any histrionics or hissy fits from this fellow. Indeed, the notion of Wright ever walking out on his homeland is laughable. But now, along with iconic Scottish Wildcats star, Kari Carswell, both these totemic characters are leaving Scotland at virtually the same time.
None the less, he was honest, as always, when I asked if he had any regrets. “Obviously, it will be a wrench leaving Scotland and Scottish cricket. However, it feels like the right time to do something different and take on some different opportunities and challenges after giving my all as a player for my country and employee [Cricket Scotland] for the past two decades.
“I’m not one for looking too far into the future, so my only ambition is to make the most of my time living and working in Hong Kong and to do as good a job as possible for HKCC.”
One wishes him well. It genuinely feels as if Scotland’s loss will be Hong Kong’s gain.
CRAIG WRIGHT’S FIVE OF THE BEST
1. Our win against Worcestershire in 1998 when I took a few wickets. This was an important win for the team given successes against the counties were still pretty rare and also given the strength of the Worcestershire team at that time. It was also important for me personally as a new Scotland player to put in a performance like that to give me confidence I could succeed at that level of cricket.
2. May 2003. Our entry into the revamped county set-up was a massive step forward itself in terms of the amount of good quality cricket it gave us over the course of the season. As amateur players to win 3 of our first 4 games (without Rahul Dravid) was a massive confidence boost for the team (especially given that certain people suggested we wouldn’t win a game all season!). The wins at Durham in the first match, Old Trafford against a very strong Lancashire team and chasing those runs in the shortened game against Somerset were very special days.
3. 2004 ICup and 2005 ICC Trophy. After the disappointment of the qualifiers in Canada in 2001, our aim was to establish ourselves as the best Associate team, and winning those competitions back to back in the manner we did proved that for that period we achieved it. The unbeaten campaign in 2005 was very special, in particular the final against Ireland at Clontarf in front of a big crowd.
4. 2011-12 U19 campaign. This team won both the European and Global qualifying tournaments (winning 13 out of 14 matches) and went on to achieve Scotland’s highest ever finish in an U19 World Cup and first victory against a full member country.
5. 2014 World Cup qualifier in New Zealand. Given the form of the team leading up to this tournament, the turmoil in terms of changes to the coaching staff and the magnitude of this event in terms of the consequences of failure this was definitely one of the highlights. I am extremely proud of our achievement in winning this competition, particularly given that virtually every game was a must win after losing our first match.