On the road again
Sean McPartlin Blog - On the Road Again (21/6/2013)
By chance, I was alone at both Scotland v Pakistan and the first day of Scotland v Australia A at the Grange. This left me plenty of time for reflection as the games unfolded each day.
On the pitch there was a familiar mix of skill and endeavour from the Scots. The bowlers held Pakistan to a reasonable score, aided by excellent fielding, and, had a middle order partnership materialised, the result may have been tighter. Against the Aussies, the class of Brad Haddin’s century and Siddle’s ease in the middle suggested a gap in class too difficult to bridge.
As supporters, we were left to ponder what Scotland must do to convert the skill they possess into positive international results. This year’s strategy of using the YB40s to give younger players county experience, while strengthening the international squad with regular county players, makes sense, but suggests a long term rather than quick impact.
What did occur to me as I watched those games was the tremendous efforts needed by all at Cricket Scotland just to maintain our present position. From the dedication of groundsman and staff, through players, to the gentlemen in their Cricket Scotland blazers and finely trimmed military moustaches: all play their part, much of it voluntarily, and, for all, it involves some kind of sacrifice – for there is not much glory to be found by committing yourself to cricket in Scotland. In a scenario where limited budget means difficult choices, youth development will always win out over marketing, and this, in turn, increases the pressure on the team to achieve headline grabbing, and therefore cash generating, victories.
And it’s perhaps the players’ commitment which is sometimes overlooked. Those with full time contracts have obligations to Cricket Scotland and clubs, the rest have tricky negotiations involving employers, holiday entitlement, training and appearances. Even those lucky enough to be full time cricketers have a difficult balancing act.
Take Freddie Coleman, for instance. By accident, in early April, I caught what may well have been his first innings of the season, playing for Oxford University at the Parks – against Warwickshire, who happen to be the county who pay his wages. Three weeks later he was in action, against Scotland, for Warwickshire, in a friendly, and meanwhile he has featured for Scotland and the Saltires in YB40 and international cricket.. I’ve no idea how he prioritises study, success with Scotland, making it with Warwicks, and the travel – which must be almost constant, time consuming, and extremely tiring. Moreover, perhaps more than any other game, cricket thrives on teamwork, bonding, and (sorry Mr Warner!) socializing. How does a young player achieve that while playing for three different teams?
I’m not seeking sympathy for Freddie or any of the team, for which of us, as cricket nuts, would not love to be living their particular dream? What is worth pointing out, however, is the difference in commitment between turning out at the weekend for a game with your clubmates, and endeavouring to represent Scotland at international level.
We have always known, those of us who love the game, that there is much more to cricket than match results. Maybe, as we chew the postmatch fat over a pavilion pint we might spare a thought for those repairing the wicket, hunched over laptops, hitting the speed dial, catching up on work tasks, or hitting the motorways.
It can be a long walk to the wicket!