Scotland v Afghanistan
It’s easy to fling mud at selectors. And, given the weather which has blighted Scottish cricket in recent days, there is certainly plenty of mud lying around.
So one hesitates to be overly critical of the Scotland squad which has just been announced for the important brace of ODIs against Afghanistan at The Grange on July 4 and 6.
The 13-man squad comprises Preston Mommsen and Kyle Coetzer (captain and vice-captain respectively), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Con de Lange, Alasdair Evans, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, Safyaan Sharif, Ruaidhri Smith, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt and Brad Wheal.
As for the Afghanistan squad, they have plumped for Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Asghar Stanikzai, Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Mirwais Ashraf, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran, Amir Hamza Hotak and Yamin Ahmadzai.
Those of us who sat through the heart-breaking World Cup defeat for the Scots will recall many of these names, not least Shinwari, who steered his side back from the precipice as they recorded their maiden win in the globe’s premier tournament.
But whether that is a positive thing from the hosts’ perspective is another matter altogether.
On a positive note, it’s heartening to see that Grant Bradburn and his colleagues have been paying attention to the pyrotechnics of Wallace, who has brought a mighty biff to his performances at the crease this summer.
And there is nothing controversial about picking such young stalwarts as Watt and Wheal, while we have seen enough from Coezter and Berrington to appreciate they are class performers and especially on the big stage.
But, all the same, some of these names are baffling. MacLeod, for instance, has had ample chances in the past and simply hasn’t scored enough runs on a consistent basis to merit inclusion and definitely not at the expense of a young homegrown talent such as Ferguslie’s Michael English.
Indeed, the same reservation might be applied to Smith, who is on the books at Glamorgan, but whose name has hardly leapt out at me when I’ve been studying the county scores.
Since Cricket Scotland neglected to mention which players were injured or absent due to county commitments, one might add: where is Matt Machan or Gavin Main? And wasn’t there any way to inject something different into the pace attack by going with Adrian Neill?
Yes, he’s raw and there are occasions where one wishes he could be less chilled-out, but when he hits the right groove, he can pose a threat with his bounce against any opponents and he might just have discombobulated the Afghanistan line-up.
None the less, I’m refusing to be too critical of this squad. Already, I’ve been asked why Majid Haq isn’t in the ranks and why Ross Lyons – THE form player in Scotland at the moment – hasn’t made the cut.
But in the former case, I simply can’t envisage Haq adding to his 200-plus cap haul, while Lyons has been approached by Cricket Scotland without the East Kilbride all-rounder providing any commitment to return to the international ranks.
The bottom line is that I guessed 10 of the 13 names in the party before it was even announced. (The three I didn’t choose were MacLeod, Smith and Wheal).
So these lads are largely the best we have at our disposal. Scotland badly requires to win these matches to prove to the ICC they can beat the best Associates.
In which light, we have to get behind them. There are only two matches which really matter this summer for Bradburn’s charges and they are looming on the horizon.