Coleman: 2015 the year Scotland will close the gap
Scotland international Freddie Coleman believes that 2015 will be the year the Scots can take the international arena by storm, as preparations for the World Cup continue to ramp up ahead of their first appearance on the big stage for eight years.
Coleman will be part of the 15-man squad making the trip to Australia and New Zealand, with their first game against the Kiwis themselves in Dunedin late on February 16, almost 3000 days since they last brushed shoulders with the best sides in world cricket.
The Scottish World Cup record – Played 8, Lost 8 – makes for unhappy reading, yet Coleman expects this time to be different.
“We are certainly going to the World Cup to win games of cricket and not just make up the numbers. If there are three or four strong performances on the day, I am sure a win will come with it.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for all Associates to show that the gap is closing with the big teams. Ireland have proven this in the last World Cup and 2015 is the year Scotland will.”
Whilst the Warwickshire batsman is reluctant to think about the changing structure of the international game, the tournament’s drop to 10 teams for the equivalent 2019 edition means that this could be the country’s last appearance for some time. The likes of Ireland and Afghanistan look set to miss out too, with the ongoing tri-series between the three sides holding numerous implications with a significant 12 months ahead.
“The results of these games [against Ireland and Afghanistan] are hugely important for us and also provided everyone the opportunity a chance to nail down there place in the team,” continued Coleman.
“We have been working hard and still have hard work to do in preparation for the World Cup. We are constantly looking to improve and better ourselves.
“Everyone in the squad has a chance of playing; the starting 11 will be based on the players who have performed the best and most consistently throughout the year. There is always competition for every spot in the order.
“I found out I had been selected for the World Cup Squad by a phone call from our head coach Grant [Bradburn] a week before the squad was released. I was obviously overjoyed and filled with excitement about the news - a chance to play against the very best in the world and to show what I can do in front of the biggest audience.
“However, I also felt a sense of relief, relieved that my performances in the middle and my hard work in training has been recognised and rewarded. It gave me a sense of the beginning of what will potentially be a great year for Scottish cricket and myself.”
Despite Coleman’s relative inexperience in the international arena and cricket in general, the youngster has continued to impress with the bat, with the most recent addition to his catalogue a fluent 50-ball 56 against a strong New Zealand XI in a warm-up fixture back in October.
“Although a few results didn't go our way we displayed some promising cricket against strong opponents, especially our one run loss to New Zealand. We lost, but it gave us great confidence knowing that we had so much time to improve and we were already playing a brand of cricket that could compete with the full member nations.
“I have been pleased with my form for Scotland starting back in January 2014 at the World Cup Qualifiers through to our next trip to Australia and New Zealand. I have found some consistency batting in the middle order, however, I’ve not quite got that big score I have been looking for. Hopefully it will come in the World Cup.
“I am always trying to better my game and improve my skills so I can play in any situation. That is the way I see myself, being able to adapt to the situation presented. I am not the one who decides if I play or not but I will ensure I have put the work in to give me the best chance of playing in the opening game.”
Turn the clock back to 12 months ago, and Scotland’s appearance in the World Cup was in serious doubt. Ireland and Afghanistan had already made the cut and, if the formbook was to be believed, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates would edge out the Scots to take the final places. The 2014 Qualifier proved the last chance for Coleman and his side, a chance that started poorly with a 17-run overturning by Hong Kong in Queenstown.
Seven games and seven victories later, Scotland were there. A turning point in the Saltires’ fortunes, so Coleman believes.
“I have fantastic memories of the qualifying tournament and was pleased to play a part in such a great team effort. I remember it as the tournament where we really came together and put previous disappointments behind us.
“It was the start of where we are. We are a young side and we have come a long way since then and are playing better cricket now because of that success. Winning silverware is why we play professional sport and to play a part in that successful trip will be one to remember in my career.”
Whilst the players, Coleman included, certainly played their part, a new face in the dressing room may have had an influence on those performances, and could continue to do so over the next couple of months.
Paul Collingwood, a T20 tournament winner as a player with England, joined the coaching setup in December 2013, helping the side through the Qualifying campaign and retaking the mantra for the World Cup.
“Colly made a great impact on the side in our qualifying tournament. His experience will be invaluable along with the rest of the coaching staff. I really enjoyed working with him in the nets and he certainly helps bring the best out of our team.
“Having said that there is only so much the coaches can do, ultimately it is up to us to go on the park and putting in the performances which will get people talking about Scottish cricket.”