Drysdale’s Column – McKay Bags 9
So why was it that the newspaper coverage of this particular achievement slightly depressed me?
Well, for starters, McKay isn’t some rising star on the Scottish circuit. Instead, he’s a New Zealand professional, who gained one solitary Test cap for his country and – as it was reported breathlessly everywhere – captured the prize scalp of Sachin Tendulkar.
Good luck to him. McKay seems a pleasant chap and his display for Watsonians ensured that they surged to a comprehensive success against Edinburgh rivals, Grange, who were skittled out for a paltry 55.
Yet there was no serious examination of his exploits, nor anxiety over what it meant for the Scottish domestic game. Nobody – or at least until we discussed it on CricIndex – asked whether McKay’s heroics didn’t raise as many questions as answers about the health of Caledonian club cricket.
After all, this was Grange, one of the powerhouses of the sport, who were routed by a man who might possess ability, but is hardly in the Glenn McGrath, Dale Steyn or Stuart Broad class. And yet he managed to embarrass a Stockbridge line-up, which was packed with international stars, past and present, including the current Scotland captain, Preston Mommsen, Neil McCallum, Gordon Goudie and Ryan Flannigan.
But, of course, one of the main problems with the shrinking coverage of cricket in these parts is the notable dearth of different opinions across the media. As recently as a decade ago, the Saltires’ jousts with the English counties were regularly being covered by at least a dozen journalists, including Jonathan Coates, Kevin Ferrie, Bill Lothian, Willie Dick, David Kelso, Keith Graham, Stuart Bathgate, Lewis Stuart and yours truly.
We didn’t always agree on how the Scots had performed, or whether they were advancing, stalling or regressing, but that was fine. The main thing was that there was a definite plurality of perspectives, which contributed to a healthy debate. The players noticed it as well and would occasionally let us know when we had struck the right note or gone too far in our criticism.
Once again, that was perfectly acceptable. If you dish it out, you have to be ready to take it back. But, in the intervening period, that positive state of affairs has virtually evaporated, certainly in the print media. This has been caused by a variety of factors, including the parlous state of newspaper finances and the withdrawal of the Saltires from the YB40 competition, but the consequences are obvious.
Firstly, everything is reported in virtually the same terms and language and with the same emphasis on a few individuals. Secondly, rather than seeking out esoteric tales, or having the resources to investigate stories properly, every picture is painted in broad strokes. It adds up to a scenario where Andy McKay’s success rather than Grange’s failure is all that is focused upon. It’s not Pravda, or not exactly, but it’s not a million miles removed either.
At CricIndex, we’re trying to provide something new, and if that means rattling a few cages and stirring up a bit of controversy, so be it. All opinions are welcome, as long as they are offered in a collegiate spirit and civilised fashion.
Cricket in Scotland needs a range of diverse opinions and contrasting attitudes to what is happening, on and off the pitch. What it doesn’t need is everybody singing from the same bland hymn sheet.
Sadly, though, that’s what it has. If you want to transform that situation, let us know.
I haven’t always seen eye to eye with Cricket Scotland over the years, but I’ve never doubted the organisation contains dedicated men and women who love cricket and want to see it flourish in their homeland.
But the governing body isn’t finding life any easier as it tries to respond to the challenge of thriving in an atmosphere where the ICC is flinging money at other Associates.
This week, I asked them how many players were on full-time and part-time contracts and was told the figure was seven and 13 respectively. Or, to put it another way, more than half of any senior Scotland squad these days will probably comprise players who are only involved in the sport on a part-time basis.
This is an absurd situation from which to expect countries and individuals to get ready for the possible introduction of a two-tier Test structure in the next three or four years. And it demonstrates why it is so important that the Scots do well against Afghanistan when the sides meet in Edinburgh early next month.
The ICC seems to recognise it has to provide greater assistance to the emerging nations. But there is no substitute for drawing up a fixture schedule which gives the likes of Scotland, Ireland and Afghanistan more than just crumbs every year.
I think we can all agree on that!
I asked a few Scottish cricket luminaries what their worst weather experiences were on the field this week and was regaled with tales of Biblical floods, Arctic blizzards and other quirks of the Caledonian climate.
The former Grand Slam-winning rugby captain, David Sole, was one who suffered at the hands of the elements.
“I was on 46 not out and suddenly it started hailing and the pitch was white and it ended up being abandoned,” said Sole, whose sons, Chris and Tom, are making waves in the game.
Many of us have had to endure similar conditions in the last few days.
Here’s to the sunshine which is forecast for this weekend!