Kyle Coetzer Interview

14 May

Neil Drysdale 

Neil Drysdale speaks exclusively to Kyle Coetzer, who was named as the new Captain of Scotland.


Kyle Coetzer

Kyle Coetzer isn’t anybody’s idea of a practical joker or cricketing dilettante. Ever since he first picked up a bat in Aberdeen in the late 1980s, the 29-year-old Northants professional, who has inherited the mantle of Scotland captain from Gordon Drummond, has been a beetle-browed student of the game; somebody who journeyed down to England when the sport was still an amateur pastime in his homeland.

As he told me, after discovering he would be in charge of the Scots for their brace of matches against Pakistan in Edinburgh later this week, there is no off switch in the Coetzer repertoire. “I suppose, when I am not playing cricket, I am thinking about it, heading for the nets, or sharpening up my fitness, working out how to make the best of my talent, and trying to raise my standards,” said the new skipper. “It has been that way ever since I got involved, with my family hooked on the sport, and it has been a great passion since the early days at Inverurie CC, then at Stoneywood-Dyce. I might have been in England for a long time, but I have never forgotten where it all started.”

However, Coetzer acknowledges that you can prove anything with figures and one suspects he knows he should probably have mustered more runs than he actually managed during his protracted spell at The Riverside. The talent isn’t in question, nor is his ability to make hay against the best of attacks. Indeed, whether in the CountyChampionship, Bangladesh Premier League, or whilst dismantling the Scottish bowlers at the Grange, Coetzer has the ability to crank through the gears and advance to a different level without any discernible sweat. One recalls how he struck the frontline New Zealand line-up for 33 from only 15 balls as the Scots posted 89 for 4 from just seven overs at The Oval in the World T20 tournament in 2009. It was coruscating, it was cool, it was calculated carnage. But that class hasn’t always been matched by consistency.It has been an eventful, occasionally peculiar, and fitfully traumatic journey from AberdeenGrammar School to Northants, via a lengthy period with Durham. In bare statistical terms, Coetzer has amassed a healthy ODI record and averages nearly 50 in his 12 outings with Scotland, for whom he powered his way to a magnificent, boundary-studded 133 against Afghanistan in Sharjah in March. He is also one of the answers to a fiendishly tricky sports question: “Who has scored centuries both for and against Scotland in the same season?” And his talents have been lauded by many of his peers, with Majid Haq describing him as the best batsman in the Associate ranks.

Now, though, he has the opportunity, both to inspire with his bat, and direct operations with his brain, and it is clear that he relishing the prospect. “I am very excited by the challenge and I want to pay tribute to Drummo, who has done an outstanding job in the last few years,” said Coetzer, who will lead the side on international duty, whilst continuing his county career in England. “Obviously, I regard it as a great honour, and this is something I have always wanted to do. The game has moved on recently, and I would hope I can follow in the footsteps of somebody like [Ireland’s] William Porterfield, who plays for Warwickshire, but captains his national side.

Boundary for Coetzer“We are at a very exciting stage in Scottish cricket, because there is plenty of competition for places, and we have more people, who are fighting for selection, North and South of the Border, than has been the case for a long time. Clearly, it is going to be a tough start, but I am convinced that if we can beat a team such as Pakistan, it will give us the belief and confidence to do it again and again in the future. That is a big part of this game, as it is in a lot of sports, and maybe, in the past, we went out sometimes with the attitude that we hoped we could be competitive, but we didn’t really think we could win.

“But I have spent a lot of time with the guys recently and I can detect that matters have changed. You talk to Majid, or Preston [Mommsen], or Richie [Berrington] and these lads are not interested in just making a decent game of it. They are determined to win these high-profile fixtures, and help Scotland reach the finals of major events. Most of us are doing this on a full-time basis, so it is our life, and we want to be successful. I know I am also keen to reward the supporters, because I remember how thrilled everybody was when we defeated Bangladesh [in a Twenty20 match] and we want to repeat that experience. Pakistan are favourites, of course. But we will be giving it our all.”

Coetzer won’t be a captain in the Flintoff mould, dealing exclusively in grand gestures and Bacchanalian festivities. Neither will he crack the whip to an excessive degree, as long as he is satisfied that his colleagues have strained every sinew. Instead, he insisted he will aspire to the modus operandi of one of his former Durham allies.

“I learned an awful lot from [all-rounder] Dale Benkenstein when he was in charge of things [at The Riverside]. He was always very calm, very measured, and he thought deeply about the decisions he was making, and he got more things right than most skippers I have met,” said Coetzer. “A lot was going on inside his head, but he was in control and he was definitely a calming influence on the people round about him.

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“That is one the factors which most excites me about this Scotland role. I know most of the players, and have watched them develop, but there are also plenty of young lads who are putting their hands up, such as Freddie [Coleman] and there is a real desire to push the sport forward. It wasn’t so long ago that our guys didn’t really play enough to have the mental toughness to go out and make big scores in ODIs. But somebody like Neil McCallum was fantastic in that regard and his exploits showed his team mates what they needed to do. These Pakistan matches are the first chance for some of the boys to be involved in games of this intensity. But I know they can handle it.”

Coetzer is a product of the Granite City and seems unfazed by being thrust into the spotlight. He won’t march out to bat, with the “Rocky” theme blaring in the background, but this fellow is experienced enough to rise to the occasion in the days ahead.

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