Grant Bradburn Excited At Challenges Ahead
Kaylan Geekie caught up with Grant Bradburn to discuss the forthcoming cricket season, which sees the Scots compete on two fronts in what is yet another important phase in the resurgence of the national team.
The beginning of the Scottish domestic season is underway, but all eyes will turn to Titwood on Friday for the start of the 2015 North Sea Pro Series (NSP). Last season’s ‘double’ champions the Highlanders, take on the Reivers with players eager to impress for national selection.
This year’s NSP tournament has been restructured from the combined 50 and 20-over format of the inaugural competition, to a month of T20 double-headers - geared towards the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in July.
The Qualifiers will be co-hosted by Scotland and Ireland and success in the tournament will lead to participation at next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in India, so the decision to shift the focus is a good one.
It is not only T20 cricket that the national team will fix their attention, but also the Intercontinental Cup. For the past 18 months Scotland has had to focus on ODIs - for obvious reasons - but over the next year, the team will have to balance the shortest version of the game with red-ball cricket.
The Intercontinental Cup is the ICC’s four-day first-class competition for the leading Associate and Affiliate Members. The event was first played in 2004, however, it now takes on much greater significance with the winner in 2017, challenging the 10th-ranked Full Member for the opportunity to play Test cricket.
“As a logical buildup to that [World T20 Qualifiers] it makes sense to have our players focusing a wee bit more on the T20,” said Bradburn, infusing some local dialect to his vocabulary, while giving reasons for the change.
“Currently the avenue for our players to move forward after club cricket is through the Pro Series, which is a very good intermediate stepping-stone to international cricket.”
The next few months are vital in terms of the future development of the game, as well as financial reasons. Switching between the slow rhythms of the four-day game and the fast-and-furious 20-over blitz in the same month, is not ideal for Scotland’s preparations.
“No. It’s a challenge we embrace nowadays,” said the former Kiwi off-spinner, with the unwavering belief that his players have the ability to adapt to the task at hand.
“In the modern day with tours becoming so much shorter, the players are becoming more comfortable switching from red-ball skills to white-ball skills and it’s something that we put a lot of focus on in our training. I think the players and the coaching staff find it an exciting challenge.”
He added: “I think the players and the coaching staff find it an exciting challenge [and] that’s up to the players themselves [to adapt]. From a playing style point of view they’re distinctly different.
“The one-day game is subtly different to the T20 format, particularly in the way that we want to play it, and the four-day game is distinctly different to the white-ball games, so I would expect for us to be developing specialist squads for the different three forms of the game.
“It’s clear that we don’t have a huge amount of depth in our high-performance numbers, but with the depth that we have got, we are creating some internal competition for the different formats.”
The Southern Seafarers and the Northern Hurricanes from the Netherlands will complete the NSP competition’s four-team line-up, providing maximum exposure to T20 for both countries’ national squad players.
The 48-year-old will work with the two Scottish regional teams’ coaches, ensuring that the ultimate directive is for the good of the national side, but they will still have autonomy on final selection.
Bradburn has a clear plan for the contracted Highlanders and Reivers players and has a say on selection, game-management and preparation. Anything other than professionalism from his chargers will not be tolerated.
“I’m very clear on the way I want the Scotland team to play all three formats of the game and I’ll be working closely to make sure the coaches understand those philosophies, but ultimately, it’s up to them to ascertain their own squads and to build their playing style and structures that best suits their own squads.
“As coaches and selectors we want to be very specific and clear about the way we want to play the game, which aligns to the skill-sets we believe we have, and within that, all players have an opportunity to target a position they would like to own in any format of the game they believe is their best strength.”
Bradburn has little time for passengers and has been around the group for little under a year. He has a clear idea of what he expects from the current crop of Scots under his tutelage.
“[It is] one of the things that I’m very strong: this is international cricket. To command a place in an international sporting team, you [the players] need to accept that your performance is your currency; runs and wickets do matter; performances do matter, and no longer can you be talented or have potential and [just be] given a cap at Scotland level.
“You need to be performing. It’s one of the philosophies I’ve brought [and] you need to be performing day-in day-out.”
Scotland struggled down under, losing all six matches in their group and were (unfairly) criticised in some quarters. Despite some negativity surrounding results at the tournament, there were many outstanding individual performances from a young team who are new to the international stage.
“I tend to look at things a wee bit differently,” he said when probed on the Saltire’s performances at the showpiece event.
“I tend to look at the glass is half full not empty. I’m so excited looking around the dressing-room knowing the majority of players - I believe - are two or three years away from being at their peak as a team and [are still] learning their trade.”
Bradburn is adamant that with more experience playing the Full Member nations, this group of Scots can improve and take the next step in their development, however, he knows the problems facing Cricket Scotland.
Getting the players, in and around the national set-up, to play more meaningful cricket against high-quality opposition is proving problematic, so greater importance is shifted onto the NSP and First-class matches against County XIs, as well as fellow Associate and Affiliates.
The results down under were not ideal, but many individual performances were positive. Anybody can see the vast improvement of Scotland, overcoming the disappointments of the last six or seven years of international wilderness, not least the man in charge.
Bradburn’s reputation as a coach is held in high regard in his native New Zealand and his enthusiasm for the betterment of cricket in his adoptive country shows in his positive outlook for the future.
“I’m so excited by the fact that we’ve come away from being exposed at the highest level of cricket, after coming off a diet of one match against a Full Member nation in the previous year, and we competed [at the World Cup].
“As we found in the World Cup, it’s a big step, a massive step, particularly when you are competing against the Full Member nations, who are playing week-in week-out against other international teams.
“We don’t have the luxury of that at the moment, so we’ve got be creative and think innovatively as to how best promote our young players [going] forward and give them the experiences, the support and the coaching that they need to able to release their skills.
“One thing is clear: it’s not necessary the skill or the talent that is missing - there is lots of skill and talent in Scotland. It’s the finishing school that we are lacking and we don’t have a First-class system, so we need to be creative in providing those opportunities.”