Blog - I’d like to teach the world to…

13 Aug

Cricket Scotland blogger Sean McPartlin offers his reflection on the recently stages World T20 Qualifiers in Scotland, and the endeavours of the national team

Wow! 

I suppose, as a blogger, I should be able to come up with a better word to describe reaction to the successfully completed, ICC T20 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Scotland (and Ireland). However, on reflection, I think “Wow!” sums it up accurately. 

It’s fair to say that the lead up to the tournament was fairly low key – certainly in comparison to the kind of hype which ushers in similar events in other sports in Scotland. The team and its supporters, I think, were also in reflective mood after the winter’s World Cup experience. It is often not easy promoting Associate Cricket, and. through Spring and Early Summer, perhaps the difficulties of our position were more to the fore than the hope and excitement offered by our young players coming through.

As it happened, we should have had more faith. 

In the warm up games, Scotland looked like they were tuning up nicely. The first  group game against the UAE showed the team playing some of the best cricket I have witnessed from the national side. Of course, the roller coaster is never far away when backing blue, and I have to admit to feeling low after the Netherlands game and not much better after witnessing the impressive fire power of Afghanistan as they handed us another defeat at the Grange. 

However, faced with “must win” games against  Kenya, Canada and Oman, the Scots came roaring back with some fine displays in all disciplines, providing skill, excitement and enthusiasm in equal parts to the decent sized crowds who gathered at the Grange and Goldenacre. The icing on the tournament cake was supplied by the combination of results which meant,  at the end of the group stages, by winning their section, the Scots were definitely going to India next Spring 

A fine result against the in-form Hong Kong side in Ireland was followed by the cancellation  of the much anticipated final versus the Netherlands – though it must be said, given some of the unseasonal weather which was hovering about during the tournament, Scotland did well to suffer only one wash out. 

So Scotland qualified for the finals and shared the Tournament trophy. Job done. 

However, it was so much more than that. 

Rightfully, Kyle Coetzer, the ever moiré impressive Matty Cross, and Ali Evans made the ICC CricInfo  “Team of the Tournament” – but I was also really impressed by the captain’s innings played by Preston Mommsen at several important moments, the fast developing impact of Safy Sharif, and the batting and fielding of another youngster, George Munsey. It was good to see Rob Taylor come back into the reckoning and Con de Lange, along with Michael Leask and young Mark Watt, showed the future is bright in the spin department. 

Off the pitch, though, the scenario was just as invigorating. Cricket Scotland had the powerful support of the ICC in mounting this tournament – but sometimes collaboration can be challenging. Certainly from this supporter’s experience, the arrangements off the pitch at both Grange and Goldenacre were excellent, and it was fitting reward to see good crowds at both venues despite sometimes uncertain weather conditions. Big shouts out to the volunteers and groundstaff at all the venues for their unstinting efforts to provide a positive environment to watch some thrilling cricket – and to the crowds who gave the lie to the canard that there is no following  for cricket in Scotland.

And, as the comedian used to say, “There’s more”. 

For too long, cricket as a sport was limited by constraints of class and Empire. Now, despite the powerplays of the “Big Three”, the ICC does seem aware of the need to spread the game across these boundaries. So, it was marvellous to sit with Afghan supporters, children in colourful national dress, flags waving, families enthralled, all providing an alternative view of their country to that most widely broadcast. Chatting to Dutch and Canadian cricket fans was similarly enriching, and, as far as diversity is concerned, to be surrounded by a Namibian team able to switch in one conversation between Afrikaans, German, English and  Oshiwambo was to effectively give the lie to cricket as an English colonial redoubt. 

In this connection, what a pleasure it was to see Les Duchesses, the French women’s team from Nantes,  enjoying the games in between their own fixtures – the finer skills, such as not spilling pints on the way back from the bar, were clearly part of their repertoire! 

Cricket has so much to bring to the world as a game – and the various countries of the world where cricket is gaining support have so much diversity to bring to the way the game is played, it was impossible not to feel hopeful for the future of the sport. The ICC seemed very happy with the way the tournament progressed – and, by the way, props to their broadcasting and media operation which was excellent – let’s hope they feel able to act on the obvious conclusions. 

My final, happy memory of the T20 Qualifiers in the Summer of 15?

Going on an evening run from my house in west Edinburgh, and, night after night, passing groups of international cricketers on an evening stroll from their hotel base. Internationalists, from so many countries, strolling happily on the streets of our capital! 

Surely the way sport should be! Surely the way ahead for cricket! 

Well done to all!

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