Carlton welcome Scotland President's XI
Fraser Watts may have called time on his international career, but the stylish batsman with the nickname “Fraggle”, still rocks whenever he gains the opportunity to turn out for Carlton. As one of the sport’s romantics, Watts is relishing being an integral part of the Edinburgh organisation’s 150th anniversary celebrations, which will see him locking horns anew with several of his former colleagues when a powerful Cricket Scotland President’s XI arrives at Grange Loan on Tuesday, August 6.
If the weather plays ball, it should be a cracking contest, considering the wealth of talent on display. The CS ensemble, captained by Willie Morton, features a full roster of internationalists, including John Blain, Richie Berrington, Gordon Goudie, Calum MacLeod, Safyaan Sharif and Calvin Burnett. But they will come face-to-face with a Carlton contingent, which is bolstered by such redoubtable characters as Watts, Hamish Gardiner, Preston Mommsen, Gordon Drummond, Jamie Kerr and Toby Bailey.
Obviously, Watts and his colleagues will be striving their utmost to secure victory in the 50-over contest. But, as he declared, the club’s “Cricket Week”, which comprises matches at every age-group level and highlights the burgeoning popularity of the women’s game in Scotland, has a bigger purpose than merely providing quickfire thrills in a one-off contest. Instead, Carlton has been a major part of Watts’ life and he is determined to ensure he can spread the gospel to as many of his compatriots as possible.
As he told Cricket Scotland: “I think the thing about Carlton that makes it special is the atmosphere around the place. There is a great family atmosphere and the place is thriving with all the juniors we have. The club is run by a hard-working bunch of volunteers, who have achieved a great deal, and they have a joint purpose to take the club from strength to strength. We are very lucky, in that respect.
“Because of these people, we have first-rate facilities and everything is organised and run very smoothly. This enables us to churn out the quality juniors you are seeing coming through the ranks, but it also helps us attract players like Preston and Drummo, who add so much to the club and bring the sort of experience we need to help the young guys develop in a professional environment. It is just a great thing to be part of…”
Watts has electrified many a summer’s afternoon in his homeland, but he appreciates that he would probably never have graduated into the Saltires and Scotland ranks without the efforts of so many unsung heroes, beavering away at the grassroots, for the love of the game. That perspective is shared by the Carlton president, Hugh Parker, another indefatigable customer, who is rightly proud of the team’s traditions and history, but seems equally committed to the task of nurturing future generations.
As he remarked: “This season, on a regular basis, we have had seven or eight players under the age of 22 in our First XI, including two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds. The second, third and fourth teams have featured even younger players and, on one evening, our Seconds’ opening bowler in the First Division of the East League, was only 12.
“We also have up to 100 juniors attending our under-11practice nights, with another 40-plus on the waiting list, and these are nearly all recruited from our feeder primary schools. We are also one of the few clubs with Silver Top Club status and we are always trying to find new ways to move forward. I believe it is a story worth telling.”
Parker used to wield the willow with ample distinction. Now, his industry off the pitch is reaping a fine dividend, not simply for Carlton, but in such spheres as Scotland’s Under-19s, with Grange Loan prodigies, Chayank Gosain and Kyle Stirling, currently in action at the European World Cup qualifying tournament in the Netherlands. Indeed, at every level of representative action, the club’s conveyor belt has unearthed gems and serves as a reminder of the countless hours of toil expended by so many, away from the limelight.
Watts, meanwhile, can vividly recollect his early experiences, long before the prospect of Scotland duty beckoned, let alone his involvement in a full-scale World Cup.
He recalled: “I remember coming down to Carlton with my dad many moons ago to have a hit around in the nets and to watch a bit of the cricket. There were two senior teams and the closest thing you got to a junior at that stage was the new first-team wickie [wicket-keeper], Jamie Kerr. Fast forward to today and we have four senior teams, a woman’s side, and more juniors than you can shake a stick at…and the same wickie is still here, but with slightly less on top.
“The nets, in my early days, were two lines of concrete, one with a permanently-attached Astroturf cover and one that required a mat to be transported down from the garage in a wheelbarrow. Fielding practice was [the ex-professional] Robin Singh standing ten yards away from you and hitting the ball as hard as he could at you and grunting when you dropped it! The nets didn’t go too far back at that point and the only goal of another pro, Andy Jackman, was to try and hit [left-arm spinner] Spike [Alan Macleod] into the garden over Lovers Lane, much to the annoyance of the residents.
“The clubhouse in those days was a dreary, dark and very unwelcoming place, while the changing rooms were cold and damp and the showers had a concrete floor and not much in the way of hot water.
“Thankfully, times have changed and through the hard work of all the wonderful volunteers we have, Carlton is the thriving club it is now. How lucky we and the next generation are. But let’s not rest on our laurels.”
One suspects there isn’t any possibility of that happening with Parker’s band at the helm.
Tuesday’s match between a CS President’s XI and Carlton starts at 11. For further information on the 150th anniversary celebrations, please visit www.carltoncc.co.uk
Scotland President's XI - Willie Morton (Capt), John Blain, Richie Berrington, Calvin Burnett, Ewan Chalmers, Gordon Goudie, Moneeb Iqbal, Calum Macleod, Craig Wallace (wkt), Safyaan Sharif, Sean Weeraratna