Drysdale’s Column: I-Cup Cricket
The sight of the ground staff in Ayr watching forlornly from the sidelines as rain obliterated this week’s I-Cup contest between Scotland and UAE was as predictable as it was depressing.
In recent years, it seems that virtually no major cricket fixture has escaped the worst effects of the weather. Just think back to the visit of the Australians in 2005 or the UAE in 2007, England in 2010 and 2014 and the Afghanistan team this “summer” and the pattern has been exactly the same.
As one of my colleagues told me this week: “You can have all the development programmes and community schemes and good intentions in the world. But if it rains, you’re screwed.”
Given the long-term prognosis of warmer and wetter summers, it’s surely time for a more radical approach from Cricket Scotland. As matters stand, in the past couple of months, nobody has benefited from the awful conditions.
So why don’t we consider relocating to Spain for these major international contests? Or certainly for the long-form I-Cup tussles?
Before anybody raises objections, let’s take a hard look at this issue. Scotland’s governing body – and their Irish counterparts – recently secured a new multi-year agreement for La Manga in Spain.
This is one of the most state-of-the-art centres in Europe and has terrific facilities across the sporting spectrum.
In these circumstances, would it be so outlandish for the Scots to arrange to play their I-Cup matches there in the future? These fixtures are crucially important and we can’t afford the sort of scenes which we’ve witnessed from Aberdeen to Ayr in the last month.
It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of precedents in modern cricket. Pakistan don’t play at home and haven’t done so for many years. Likewise Afghanistan. Political problems mean that Bangladesh could soon be added to the list.
In that regard, there are myriad benefits from the Scots, the Irish and the Dutch joining forces to create an ICC-quality ground in Spain, which they could use for playing, training and winter coaching.
I can hear the nay-sayers responding: but what about the fans? Well, to be honest, there is never any danger of a spectator stampede at I-Cup contests as I’ve discovered at various arenas during the last decade. And when it’s raining, the futility of the whole exercise is gnawingly apparent.
Indeed, if you turned things on their head, you could make a decent argument for the virtues of a two or three-week I-Cup festival at La Manga every summer.
And I’m sure, if the various authorities spoke to budget airlines, they could devise travel packages which wold offer supporters the opportunity to spend a week in the sunshine, with the chance to enjoy some cricket, a few hours at a swimming pool, with a cocktail or two close to hand.
In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be necessary, of course. And I suppose it might be more practical to stage Scotland’s international games at The Riverside ground in Durham if the latter were prepared to entertain the idea.
After all, it’s a quicker journey from the central belt to the north-east of England than it is to Aberdeen. Or, for that matter, for Granite City aficionados to be forced to venture to Ayr.
Perhaps it’s true that not every summer is going to be as miserably saturated and soggy as this one has been. But it is developing into a pattern and I’m increasingly hearing stories about clubs struggling for survival.
They are not being helped the rhythm of the rain and La Manga won’t ease their travails. Yet the stark reality is that if Scotland’s elite performers are forever loitering on the boundary edge with their umbrellas, they are on a road to nowhere.