Operation Thailand for Scotland's women's squad
With cricket squares across Scotland now safely put to bed for the next few months the sport tends to fade into the background during the winter. This isn’t the case for a band of skilled and enthusiastic Scottish female cricketers.
The challenge – of which they have gratefully accepted – is to qualify for the Women’s ICC World T20. To do this they must make their way to the unfamiliar surroundings of Bangkok to ply their trade.
Scotland’s national women’s team are faced with a ticky task; they are grouped with their hosts, along with Papua New Guinea and Full Member, Bangladesh, to battle it out for a spot on the global stage.
But before that happens, the final cut has to be decided. “This is a strong group, and having a selection headache is a nice problem to have, and perhaps not one we’ve had in the past.” explains Head Coach, Kari Carswell “It’s going to be really tough on those who don’t make the travelling party.”
It’s been a long season for the Wildcats, the alias used for ECB competitions, who don’t have the quite so salubrious options of travel that other national teams enjoy. Regular long drives, often consuming the majority of their weekends, have been the diet of the squad throughout the summer.
“Results-wise it’s been a bit of a frustrating season. We’d recently been promoted to ECB Division 2 and found the going quite tough. We’ve enjoyed a bit of success in the Natwest T20 Cup though, finishing fourth.”
Five wins from eight really isn’t a bad return for the Wildcats in the shorter format of the game, and gives plenty of reason for optimism going into the Qualifiers.
“We’ve been able to increase our coaching staff in the run-up to the WWT20 Qualifiers, and will have two coaches in Ian Shaw, Pete Ross and Gordon Allan supporting us throughout the tournament, along with drop-in sessions with national coach Grant Bradburn and John Blain to help us prepare too.” Carswell added.
It’s expected that the team will be led by Abbi Aitken, whose bowling was instrumental in dismissing Northamptonshire for 36 during the summer, claiming personal figures of three wicket for two runs.
“It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for the team to show what we can do, and we’re under no illusions at the size of the task” says Aitken, “It’s a great time to be part of the women’s game and generate some much needed exposure back home.” She concludes.
With the way the fixtures in the ECB Championships work out, the Wildcats have had to play all their games away, which means supporters north of the border haven’t had the opportunity of witnessing the team in action.
However, with the hype and media excitement of the women’s Ashes captivating the country’s imagination over the summer, it’s clear the female game is expanding.
Clare Connor, a former England captain explained in a recent interview with the BBC,"It's [been] the biggest, most-anticipated, high-profile women's series there's ever been." On the recent series betweeen England and Australia, with the amount of media coverage and attendance figures validating this.
It spells for encouraging signs for those looking to get involved, "Women's sport is winning over more hearts and minds than ever. It feels like a positive time for women in sport in this country and all forms of media are really getting on board."
There will also be the added incentive for the Scottish women – not that they need it – to perform during the tournament with Women’s Big Bash League scouts flying in from Australia watching their performances with interest. This could conceivably lead to an opportunity for one or two or the squad to join up with one of Australia’s WBBL teams, one of the major ground-breaking flagship events in the women’s game.
The squad are aware that this weekend will be their final chance to impress the selectors before the tough selections decisions are taken, and whether or not they will be given the opportunity to represent their country and join their National and Under 19 counterparts on the biggest stage of all - a World Cup.