THE TRAVELLING FOX

Ben Fox

Our Roving Reporter has been travelling in the UAE with the Scotland Team

Read his thoughts and share his experiences during this important week for Scottish Cricket

 

  

Published 11 March 2013

Tour Diary #4

Well, it's the final day of my tour of the UAE and what an experience it has been. Throughout these blogs I have tried to keep it honest and, if I'm to continue in that vein, I'd have to class Friday as heartbreaking.

WCL Match

On Thursday night the coach had us out for a team activity (crazy golf) and a team meal, which put everybody at ease – but the sense of unity was evident.  It was a quiet and determined, bus journey to the ground for our final World Cricket League match against Afghanistan.

Kyle's century was up there with one of the best I have witnessed; In such heat, with such pressure, he was magnificent! He and Josh so very nearly helped contribute to what would have been a victory to match the famous win against Ireland, two years ago in the qualification rounds. 

The immense effort by the bowlers and fielders in those conditions, and the leadership showed by Gordon Drummond and Pete Steindl, was admirable.

For the guys to turn in a performance like that on Friday, particularly after the manner of Wednesday's defeat, was quite remarkable. While on paper it may not look great, but there were many small aspects of the game that, had they gone our way, it would be from an entirely different perspective that I'd be writing this blog.

Of course, there was bitter disappointment following the game……but that's international cricket I guess, small margins win matches.

I'm sure it will be easy for those at home to judge and write that this tour has not been as successful as we would have liked. However, from what I saw on the ground there are plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic about the future of this team and I am sure we will all be able to properly witness, over the next few months, the emerging talent that is so clearly here.

In earlier blogs I talked about the conditions and atmosphere, but the crowd that packed in yesterday (reports of 12,000 people) was unbelievable, and acted as a 12th man (even 13th as they were so loud) as they were treated to a fabulous game of cricket. According to media sources, 9 million listened to the match on  Pashto radio and many more thousands watched via the ICC stream and followed tweets.

One thing that should not be underestimated is just how good this Afghanistan team is. The sacrifices they make and the hours upon hours of work they put in, playing their cricket hard and fearlessly, means they are a tough opposition for anyone.

Sharjah is a funny old place. With the hustle and the bustle of the city, the constant car horns, the crazy driving, the batting friendly wickets - it's a far cry from the quiet closes and green seaming decks of bonnie Scotland.

Clouds

It seems fitting that I am writing this blog on the plane where it all started, and although it’s been tough, and the results not what I might have wished to be reporting on, I'll look back on my first tour with fond memories of and enormous respect for all of the participants.

I would like to make a special thank you to the team and management, who made me feel so welcome and provided me with support, advice and tolerance. It was a daunting prospect to make my first tour as media manager and, even with the unnecessary excitement of dodgy wifi connections, it has been a massive learning experience that I hope Cricket Scotland will continue to benefit from during the course of this important season. For the folks at home who provided encouragement and support in the background – you know who you are, and know how grateful I am too!

I hope you've enjoyed reading these blogs as much as I've enjoyed writing them - until next time!

From a slightly tanned (perhaps a little burnt),

Travelling Fox.

Published 7 March 2013

Tour Diary #3

I hear it is a pretty miserable day back home today, so I have been able to take some solace from the fact that, as I write this blog, the sun is beaming down and I'm down by the pool enjoying some much needed sun. 

While this might sound a luxury it is, in fact, a necessity - I am starting to gain some odd looks for my pasty white skin as I have been confined to my room for a large part of my time here, either praying to the internet gods for a decent service, or working when I actually do get one!

However, the envious conditions aside, it will come as no surprise to any of you that we are all still all hurting from yesterday's result against Afghanistan in our first WCL match.

There is simply no point in attempting to put any form of spin on it, we were second best on the day and that was a tough one to take. Having said that, there is no doubt at all that the players are desperate to make amends tomorrow. 

Richie and Matt batted beautifully yesterday and got us to a platform where we could have set a really imposing total, on a wicket that required batting on for a while, to get your eye in. Richie was very (and heart breakingly) unfortunate to be given out, when we all felt it wasn't... "But that's international sport"  as the coach said to me afterwards. 

Much credit has to be given to the Afghans; they have been superb in these conditions and are clearly a top class team. Their preparation camp in Pakistan would have really helped in this climate and these conditions. I have to say, the coach has been a real inspiration since the game and there has been a real sense of togetherness and determination evident among the team. Trying to be pragmatic can sometimes be difficult, especially when there is so much at stake, but we have one game left and the guys are determined to give it their all.

A thing that has really struck me so far on this tour is the professionalism that is apparent in the Scotland squad. It is great to see the guys that haven't been selected supporting the team alongside those that have, and them all working for each other. I feel very proud to be a Scot, a Scottish cricket supporter and part of this team (even if it is in the guise of lowly media man!)

Carter and Murphy

I know people have had differing opinions after the non-selection of Neil Carter, and it is in the nature of sport that we all feel able to articulate those opinions, sometimes reasonably and sometimes not. But the fact of the matter is clear, whether as a player or as a supporting member of the squad, Neil is brilliant guy to have around and the rest of the squad are all keen to tap into his knowledge and viewpoints.  He has a really vibrant and open personality and is a huge asset to Scotland.

We are all meeting tonight, after various gym sessions and meetings, for an activity of some sort – but no one will tell us what it is, so we are all rather nervous! Then it will be an early night ahead of another huge game tomorrow! 

Published: 4 March 2013

Tour Diary #2


DubaiAfter a fascinating chat with my friendly taxi driver, who warmly welcomed me to Dubai, I finally made it to my destination - The Grand-Midwest hotel - at roughly 2am GST on Friday morning. My body clock was a little bit out of sync by this point – a combination of time zones (4 hours ahead here) and too much time travelling.

After managing a quick couple of hours sleep, in what was an absolutely stunning apartment, it was down to meet up with the squad at 8am the next morning.

It was great to see all the guys after a long and slightly lonely flight, although there was a little bit of confusion about the whereabouts of the bus! Eventually it arrived and  we crammed in all our kit before heading off to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium for a training session.

An interesting, and a little unexpected, thing about the Sharjah cricket ground is that it could probably best be described as a little ‘dated’. Don’t get me wrong,  it’s a lovely ground and I can see that in its prime it would have been a top class facility. However , it’s the icons of yesteryear  rather than today that hang on the wall, players such as like Darren Gough, Wasim Akram and Mark Waugh, and all with slightly dusty look to them.

One consistent issue that I have faced is the wi-fi (or lack of it), which is making me somewhat nervous ahead of the matches. I eventually located someone in the offices who managed to sort it all out (for the time being), but I would had not really expected to look on cricket reporting as a sort of technological bungee jump before!

The players had a great training session in the sun, working hard ahead of the initial T20 fixture.

First T20 v Afghanistan (3 March 2013)

It was a pretty good buzz sitting on the team bus as we entered the ground, and it gave us some idea of the atmosphere ahead. In the same manner as in places like India and Pakistan, the mob of supporters made an immense amount of noise, particularly after a local song played over the sound system. The contrast to the absolute silence whenever Scotland claimed an Afghan wicket was in itself quite intimidating!

There is no doubt at all who the local hero was – every time Hammid Hassan came into bowl, or even touched the ball, the masses were on their feet going crazy.

My initial worries about high octane sports reporting were confirmed when the internet dropped after the first few overs, despite the officials insisting that it was still working well. I eventually found a spot high up in the stands (this bungee jump analogy took on a new perspective), but even then it wasn’t the most fluent of connections,. A hazard of the occupation for all sports journalists/media folk/photographers and one I have an increasing sympathy with.

The crowd

When we got back to the hotel there was just enough time to get a quick interview with the humble Matt Machan in the restaurant, with the cleaners banging around clearly trying to recreate the atmosphere of the Afghan crowd! It was quickly shot, leaving Matt to get off to bed as it was nearly 1am. My work, however, wasn’t finished yet as the report, editing photos and getting the interview online meant a 4am bed time.

Although the result itself wasn’t quite what we might have hoped for, it was a fantastic experience and something that I’m really looking forward to again tonight! T20 is a frantic, fast paced format of the game and, after three 50 over warm up matches it must have been difficult for the guys to adapt to it straight away - particularly in these alien conditions.

Onwards and upwards!

Published: 2 March 2013

Tour Diary #1

What….you are going to sit the sun….watching cricket?! Thats not work."

It most definitely is (is my usual reply). It's a question and comment that has come up with increasing regularity in the run up to my departure, but I'm under no illusions. This is going to be a challenging few weeks for me – but a challenge I am really relishing.

I'm beavering away on this first blog onboard BA flight 109 to Dubai, on my way to join the Scotland cricket team ahead of what will be two very (VERY) important World Cricket League fixtures, in their quest to reach the 2015 World Cup.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to offer our fans, who sadly can't be out here, a bit of an insight into what happens on a tour such as this – so as well as my ‘official’ duties, I am going to try and keep up a meaningful blog over the period.

This will be my first international tour with the team. Needless to say, even though I will have a great deal of work to do, like any other cricket fan would be, I'm pretty excited!

After reporting the warm up games v the UAE Blues from sunny Scotland (no tongue in cheek intended, it has been lovely) I have been no stranger to early starts this week, and this morning was no different. After the usual kit emergencies and last minute packing (panicking) had all been negotiated, I made my way to Edinburgh airport.

 I have already had the pleasure of meeting most of the new county-based faces during the pre-tour training sessions and they make a great impression, both on and off the pitch - so, I'm looking forward to getting a few old and new faces in front of the camera during the ten days I am there.

In this digital age it's possible for everyone to easily distribute and access content instantly. For the next week or so, I will be doing just that as well, using twitter, Facebook and of course, the new look and ‘oh so much easier to update’ website.

The increasing levels of internet streaming of live events is clearly something that appeals to fans, and our friends at QuipuTV have already made some excellent broadcasts of previous Scotland matches.

I am fortunate enough to have been invited into the ICC main offices during my stay, to discuss the plans for the streaming of the two WCL matches. This is something I'm really looking forward to.

During my day of travel I have been treated to some of the most incredible aerial views - from a beautiful Edinburgh sunrise, to the snowy sunset baked hills of Turkey, and as I type, Kirkuk at night.

 Next stop, Dubai...

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