Blog -Tough it out on the Track

17 May

Cricket Scotland blogger Sean McPartlin gives us his latest contribution as the 2016 season gets into full swing. 

It was always going to be a quieter year for our national squad, relatively speaking, and when the ICC  announced additional funding for our two closest Associate rivals, Ireland and Afghanistan, there seemed to be too many clouds gathering on our cricketing horizon.

And then I thought of Alf Tupper – The Tough of the Track! 

For younger readers, Alf perhaps needs an introduction, although for those of more mature years he is a well established sporting icon. 

Alf featured in the “Victor” comic, back in the 60s, though he’d appeared in the “Rover” previously. He was a working class lad with a real talent in athletics and a burning desire to succeed on the track. His problems lay in the prevailing attitudes in the sport, and his lack of financial support. 

These were amateur times but most of Alf’s opponents seemed to be privileged, with public school backgrounds, crinkly hair, and tailored blazers and slacks. They pitched up to events in chauffeur driven cars with a butler to carry their expensive gear, while Alf arrived on the bus, his spikes wrapped in brown paper. 

Perhaps his most famous moment involved the national Olympic trials. 

The date and timing of this event was changed at short notice, meaning Alf could not get time off work. Whilst his rivals were enjoying massages and carefully prepared meals, Alf put in a full day as a welder, cutting up tram tracks for removal from city streets, filling his lungs with  carbon monoxide from passing traffic. With scarcely time to cross the city to the stadium, he grabbed his brown paper parceled spikes and a fish supper, and jumped on the bus at the last moment. 

His opponents were sneeringly dismissive when he ran on to the starting line with seconds to spare, tearing off his raincoat to reveal an old simmet and baggy shorts. Predictably, Alf wins the race and his opponents, being decent types at heart, are forced to recognise his prowess. 

The Tough of the Track may have been a cartoon character, but it is remarkable to discover how many successful athletes from challenging backgrounds cite him as an inspiration! 

As Cricket Scotland supporters, we never find it difficult to identify elements which hinder our progress on the world stage: from facilities, to media coverage, to the weather: they are all offered as explanations for our failure to capitalise on various stellar moments. Now, with the ICC’s funding announcement, it would be easy to bemoan our fate, and wonder if, like the “Big Three” amongst the Test playing nations, there was emerging a “Big Two” within the Associates. Like the situation facing Alf Tupper, it would be easy  to see the establishment as too set against us for us to succeed. 

It would be easy to take that road, but, I feel, wrong and also self defeating. 

One could,  with some certainty, suggest  that both Ireland and Afghanistan have overcome greater woes than Scotland to reach their current status. The troubles of the Afghans, who still cannot play games in their own country, are well known, but in Ireland too, cricket struggled to gain national recognition, with the game being considered a “foreign” or “garrison” sport to a far greater degree than in Scotland. 

What both these countries have in common is that they generated a determination out of the obstacles they had to overcome, and, by performing successfully on the field, forced the international cricketing community – and sports fans in their own country – to acknowledge their progress and reward it appropriately. 

Cricket Scotland has much cause for optimism – and we must focus on the things we can change rather than those  outwith our control. 

There are new faces at every level with innovative ideas and an acknowledgement of what needs to be achieved – as can be seen from the  new four year strategic plan. The winning of the ICC’s Best Overall Cricket Development Programme  Global Award reflects well on the level of work being done to promote cricket in our schools and support clubs with facilities and coaching. 

In addition, we have some bright young cricketers  emerging at all levels, and in the men’s and women’s game – with Matty Cross the latest to be given the opportunity to develop his game in a county championship environment. 

All of this should give us hope for the continuing development of the game in Scotland, at club as well as national level. We all want the Cricket Scotland squad to be successful on the world stage, but the way in which we will achieve this is to build on our strengths, to win on the field, and to see challenges as opportunities to prove critics wrong, rather than insurmountable obstacles. Alf Tupper would have had it no other way. 

And we have a great chance to start by overcoming Afghanistan at the Grange in July!

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