Keith Oliver's Third Blog

23 Mar

The third offering from Cricket Scotland's Chairman, Keith Oliver, as Scotland complete their CWC adventure. 

During three excellent days staying with Alan Isaac (ex ICC President) and his wife Mary, Wellington lived up to its reputation as a windy city for the first two days of our stay.  Mercifully the wind held off until after our crossing from Picton on South Island over the Cook Straight to Wellington. 

I spent several hours in the New Zealand Cricket Museum at the Basin Reserve. It is an excellent facility, but like several buildings in Wellington, it carries a yellow sticker, ordering that earthquake protection works must be carried out within four years.  Not only Christchurch is affected by earthquakes, it seems. 

I visited Johnsville Cricket Club, in Wellington and expect to set up a good relationship there, to further opportunities for our players. 

We moved on to Auckland, which is a thriving city, for a day and took a city bus tour, which included a drive past of the magnificent Eden Park Stadium.  Unfortunately it was off limits; we could not stop and explore it, as they were not offering tours during the World Cup. But from the little we saw, and from the pride in the driver’s voice when describing it, it seems to be a splendid facility. The yachts taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race were berthed in the harbour, showing that Auckland was on full parade hosting not one but two international events in the same few weeks. 

We rejoined our team again in the beautiful city of Hobart, Tasmania, arriving on the same flight as my fellow Cricket Scotland Director, Kenny Godsman, also out supporting our team. Kenny and I found the squad in good heart and fully prepared for their match against Sri Lanka. 

The team put up a really good show against an extremely strong Sri Lanka, with some excellent individual performances by Rob Taylor, Freddie Coleman and captain Preston Mommsen. For that day, 11th March 2015, Josh Davey became the leading wicket taker in the World Cup, a terrific achievementfor him and the team. 

The full team, coaching staff, and I attended an evening reception hosted by the British High Commission at the Arts Hotel in Hobart. Again we were made extremely welcome and were invited to take part in a Scotch Whisky tasting. The purpose was to raise awareness of potential trade links between Scotland and Australia, and in particular Tasmania, which also has a thriving whisky industry. Preston was presented with a replica Australia green cap. 

Again I strove to establish good connections with decision makers in Cricket Tasmania. The Chairman, Tony Harrison, now a firm friend, was very welcoming and he is very receptive to our players training and playing in Tasmania.  The Bellerive Oval is new and is a superb facility. It would be ideal for pre-season training before our summer. The standard of club cricket in Tasmania is high with state players regularly playing at club level. Relationships were warmly re-established with senior Cricket Australia executives too, and the Chairman, Wally Edwards is a great supporter of advancing the high performing Associate cause. 

I find it interesting that during these matches I have attended, promoting the cause of Cricket Scotland, that at each one at least one senior executive representative of each country has been in attendance. In the case of Australia these included their Chairman and CEO and for New Zealand their President and his fellow director who is their ICC Executive Board nominee.  The talk of the tournament has been how successful the high performance Associate teams have been and how they have enhanced the competition. 

Our team had a difficult day on 14th March; playing against an Australian team that was desperate to win to ensure they avoided a possible semi final in New Zealand, combined with very poor weather, led to the game being disjointed and unsatisfactory. Nonetheless our team showed full commitment. Michael Leask took the best catch I have seen in the tournament to date. 

I was invited to address the company in the Director’s Box, and was thereafter presented with a Cricket Tasmania tie by Tony Harrison, who is now, by way of a suitable exchange, the proud possessor, I feel sure, of my tie in the official Cricket Scotland tartan.  The combination of my Cricket Scotland tartan trousers and the Tasmania tie was somewhat unusual! 

This World Cup has been a steep learning curve for the players. They have been pitted against some of the finest cricketers in the world today, in searing match conditions. We were given no quarter by any team and were treated as equals. There is no substitute for live match conditions and this contest, as we all know, is the pinnacle. 

I am confident that our team will go from strength to strength and move confidently through the World T20 qualifiers that we are proudly hosting this year, to the World Cricket League and Intercontinental Cup. 

With our players now back from the World Cup, my focus naturally turns back again to supporting the day-to-day work of Cricket Scotland;  as I mentioned in an earlier blog, real progress has been made with our programme to ensure, in conjunction with Education Scotland, that cricket is played as part of the PE curriculum in schools, as increasingly it is recognised how important sport is to the health of the people of Scotland. We have been assisted by funding from ICC Europe with this project.

Also on the home front, I hope many clubs will take advantage of the arrangements made by Cricket Scotland with Jewson and Simpson & Partners to improve and maintain their facilities, and the opportunity offered by Insuring Sport, details of all of which have already appeared on the website.  With so much funding from the ICC and sportscotland being non-discretionary as regards what it can be spent on, such partnership initiatives are to be warmly welcomed, and add to the continuing investment made in grass-roots cricket - both in time and funding - by the organisation and our staff.   

The devolution of responsibility to WDCU has been a success, and discussions are progressing with devolution of responsibility to ESCA and the creation of, and devolution of local decision-making to, a new Caledonia regional association. 
The creation of the SWCA is a tremendous initiative, the association - which will celebrate the anniversary of its official launch in a few weeks time - has quickly established itself as an important partner in our promotion of the women's game, and my thanks go again to the committed individuals behind its creation and ongoing work.  2015 will be another exciting year for our women cricketers culminating in their participation in the Women's World T20 qualifying event in Thailand. 

The Board, comprising members with club connections spanning the length and breadth of the country,  understands just how vital such support, partnerships and focussed local empowerment is.  It is also for this reason that I recognise the need to increase our commercial income to the benefit of our national teams and the domestic game ; I am always looking to increase the funding we are fortunate to have in place, both in cash and value in kind. 

A new season is fast approaching; may it bring all that you hope for on the field.

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