From Neil Drysdale
Australian cricket might not be in rude health at the moment, but Scotland could be poised to benefit from the talents of a 22-year-old Brisbane-born batsman with an insatiable appetite for run-scoring.
His name is Hamish Gardiner, so, perhaps unsurprisingly, he has fitted right in with his precocious colleagues at Carlton CC, who are pushing for championship glory in the CSL East competition, as the Grange Loan side celebrate their 150th anniversary.
When Gardiner initially arrived in Edinburgh a few months ago, he was merely committed to fulfilling his duties as the club's overseas amateur, after finishing his university degree in Oz. Yet, such has been the flow of efficacious knocks from his bat since the 2013 campaign commenced that he is currently in the thick of the action as the Scots tackle the MCC in a three-day tussle in Stirling. And why not? After all, his parents are Scottish, he has already represented his adopted country at under-13 level when he returned to his roots a decade ago, and is eager to keep proving his worth.
"I feel at home here, and I suppose that is because I have been in Scotland a lot throughout the last 10 years," said Gardiner yesterday. "I was in the same age-group squad as the likes of Ewan Chalmers and Chris Bellwood, when we took part in a competition in the north of England and I am lucky in that I have both a British and an Australian passport. I'm definitely not getting ahead of myself, and I wasn't expecting to get back into the Scotland set-up so quickly, but I would jump at the chance to be involved with the lads again and I know enough about the game over here to be excited at the prospect. My No 1 priority just now is to Carlton, who have been fantastic, and, as matters stand, I have booked my flights back to Brisbane in September. But, let's face it, I would be delighted to have to change my travel arrangements if there was the opportunity to show what I can do with Scotland at any level."
The Carlton president, Hugh Parker, is an engaging character and makes no secret of his belief that the new generation merit greater exposure in the limelight. As he pointed out: "Last week we had 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 feature even younger players with our [Seconds] opening bowler one week being only 12 in Division 1 of the East League; we have up to 100 juniors attending our under-11 practice nights, with another 40-plus on the waiting list and these are nearly all recruited from our feeder primary schools, which requires a serious amount of qualified coaches; and we are one of the few clubs with Silver Top Club status."
In this environment, Carlton are benefiting from the enthusiasm with which Gardiner has embraced the role of orchestrating their title charge. "We have started the season pretty well and we just have to try to keep the momentum going," he said. "It is a tough tournament, and there have been plenty of close matches, but I am enjoying the challenge and, once you get on a roll, it is amazing how the confidence increases."
One suspects that, by the climax of the summer, this hot-shot Hamish will have graduated into the senior ranks and excelling on a higher stage.