Scotland’s Elimination – What Happens Now?
Another global tournament, another expectant build-up and another crushing anti-climax for Scotland’s cricketers. You might suppose those of us who love the game would be accustomed to disappointment by now, but that doesn’t ease the pain of the Scots’ elimination at the World T20 qualifying event in India.
The common response to such setbacks in Scottish sport tends to involve instant calls for retribution and resignations, whether of coaches or players – or both – but cricket aficionados need to recognise the bigger picture after this week’s defeats to Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and acknowledge that searching for scapegoats isn’t going to improve the situation.
By and large, the squad picked by Grant Bradburn and captained by Preston Mommsen was the best the Scots could muster in 2016. You can quibble with the omission of Majid Haq, or the continued selection of Calum MacLeod, or even query whether Mommsen should be in the T20 ranks at all. But these are side issues compared with the more pressing issue of where the sport goes from here in Scotland.
Because the stark truth is there are no quick fixes or overnight transformations on the horizon. The number of high-profile fixtures in Scotland this summer amounts to a big fat zero and, given the rival
attractions of the European Football Championship – even minus Gordon Strachan’s men – and the Olympic Games, cricket’s public and media profile will continue to shrink.
None of us at CricIndex want that scenario. Instead, we aim to be part of the solution, not the problem. So here are five steps which might just help to orchestrate a brighter future for the summer game in Scotland.
SET UP A EUROPEAN LEAGUE
This notion has been mooted in the past, but with Scotland, The Netherlands and Ireland all losing in India this week, any room for procrastination has disappeared. Asian cricket is patently moving in a different, more prosperous direction from the game in Europe and there is no point in pretending to have a professional structure without regular matches for the leading lights.
What’s required is a Five or Six Nations event, involving Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Wales, a Euro Select and the England Lions.
If the ECB is serious about helping cricket’s development across the whole country and region in which they play, let’s see some urgency from them in assisting their Associate neighbours. And let’s forget the grandiose talk from Ireland about pursuing Test status. At the moment, they are toiling as much as anybody else with an antiquated structure.
It needs resolved or the various governing bodies will have to tear up the pro contracts and revert to part-time or amateur status. At which stage, the ball is really burst.
TALK DIRECTLY TO THE CLUBS
Cricket Scotland receives a lot of flak and, heaven knows, some of it is justified. In the last decade, much as happened in rugby, the grassroots circuit has been left to wither on the vine. There was the SNCL, then the Eastern and Western Conference, a Scottish Cup with group matches and a straight knock-out format. It has been a complete guddle.
Once CS return from India, they should convene a national conference on the future of the game at ALL levels and do so quickly. And, here’s an idea, why not start with a blank piece of paper? It isn’t in anybody’s interests for matters to stagnate any more. We all need a clear, coherent structure. Which brings me to my third point.
CREATE A NATIONAL 20/20 EVENT
If it’s good enough for the rest of the world, why not Scotland? And please don’t keep raising the weather!
With some prescience and ambition, the Scots could devise an integrated regional 20/20 event for both elite clubs and smaller organisations.
The first weekend would see matches in the north, south, east and west with the winners progressing to a grand finals day at a suitable venue. Let’s agree on the central principle, then we can thrash out the exact details in time for a 2017 launch.
It needs a sponsor and an innovative approach by clubs across the whole country and, of course, there might be teething problems or a need for umbrellas at some stage. But just think what it could do to encourage kids and their parents to return to cricket grounds and especially if the fixtures were backed up by barbecues and other amenities.
People might know I am not the biggest fan of 20/20. But can we really afford to ignore a format which is being embraced by the rest of the globe from Jersey to Oman?
ENCOURAGE ALL THE TALENT
Back in 2003, I wrote a piece for The Herald magazine about the exciting crop of young Scots-Asian cricketers who were rising through the domestic system. It seemed the sport might really benefit from the development of talents in the mould of Qasim Sheikh, Omer Hussain, Zeeshan Bashir and their colleagues.
Sadly, that process appears to have stalled. Majid Haq and Safyaan Sharif are the only two players to truly make their mark on the international senior stage and the former is no longer in his country’s squad for reasons which have nothing to do with cricket. It’s not what one might have envisaged 10 or 12 years ago.
There is fault on both sides if you look at some of the individual cases. But what is undeniable is that Scotland needs to tap into every area where the game is enjoyed. To be fair, greater progress has been made in cricket than some other games.
But that inclusivity has to be more than just a buzzword in the future.
THE CLUBS MUST WAKE UP
There are plenty of progressive organisations across the country, including the likes of Glenrothes, East Kilbride, Falkland and Arbroath United. But there are other clubhouses which seem to be shrouded in perpetual gloom, and whose officials do nothing to spread the gospel in their own communities.
That attitude of always blaming somebody else has to change and clubs not only have to make positive headlines on and off the pitch, they have to publicise them as well.
For too long, the philosophy has been: “Why do the media ignore us?” Expressed simply, life has moved on and the days of newspapers covering matches across Scotland has pretty much vanished for ever.
Cricket can still attract readers and viewers, but it must be more imaginative to survive.
What are your ideas for improving Scottish cricket? Please let us know.