Dreams and Drams
With the imminent arrival of the ICC World Twenty20, Cricket Scotland supporters are feeling that familiar mix of emotions. There is excitement that we are one of the six Associate nations joining the “big ten” in an international tournament, optimism that this might be a breakthrough moment, and a nagging doubt, based on experience, that it may all end in tears before bedtime.
Such is the lot of the Scottish cricket supporter, who always has to proceed with a canny combination of reality and dreams. Realistically, we are a small nation, whose national side is under resourced in terms of commercial backing and the availability of back up and facilities. It needs something fairly spectacular from our cricketers to make our national press take notice, and though we have had our moments, our recent history has been more a tale of rebuilding and aspiration. That headline making win against a major Test playing opponent has remained tantalizingly just out of reach. We are left to cast envious glances across the Celtic Sea, where our cousins in Ireland have made brilliant progress and captured the popular support of a Republic not previously enthralled by King Willow.
But then, cricket is a sport for dreaming and reflection and the unexpected, and, on the positive side, though it would not be my chosen form of the game, if Scotland is to taste success, then the T20 format may well be the best opportunity.
More than any other type of cricket, T20 can be decided by the finest of margins: a poor over by a bowler, seven or eight balls when a batsman finds his mojo, failure to take sharp chances in the field. Though all or any of these may influence a Test Match, county game, or one dayer, there is precious little room for error in the short form of cricket, and these game changers have an immediate, and often irreversible, effect.
This can be to Scotland’s advantage. Their lack of experience at four or five day cricket is less problematical, their ability to innovate and extemporise becomes a strength, competing against the focus and concentration of full time internationalists is less challenging in a game of forty overs.
In addition, our current team has the audacity of youth. The confident spinning of Mark Watt and Michael Leask, the influential wicket keeping and batting of Matty Cross, added to the experienced power of Kyle Coetzer, Preston Mommsen and Richie Berrington at the crease, all bring hopes of victories. Calum MacLeod and Josh Davey have proved match winners previously, as have Ali Evans and Rob Taylor. Safy Sharif and George Munsey announced their potential in last year’s qualifiers, and Matt Machan wears his heart on his sleeve with some explosive performances when he brings his county cricket experience to Scotland’s cause.
Our qualifying group will see us renew some doughty tussles with Afghanistan, and needing to be on our best form against Zimbabwe, and a rapidly improving Hong Kong side keen to make their mark. It may come down to our old friend, consistency, and how well we adapt to the conditions in Nagpur.
It would be nice to think that, come March 12, after our final game v Hong Kong, we will be enjoying a few celebratory drams to go with our dreams!