On Safari with the Wildcats - Tony Brian
Cricket Scotland's Chair Tony Brian has written a blog from his time with the Scotland women's team who were representing their country at the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier in Colombo in February.
Fifteen days ago I was in Sri Lanka where I was one of the 'Wildcats' Tartan Army (of whom more later!) who were avidly following the Scottish Women’s Team as they attempted to qualify for the 2017 World Cup.
We knew going out how tough it would be as the competition consisted of 6 test nations (with largely professional players) and 3 other associate nations like Scotland. But the team (and fans!) went with high hopes that the major progress seen in the Wildcats’ performances and professionalism in the last few years could produce an upset. And we knew that their coach, Steve Knox, and captain, Abbi Aitken, would push them to perform to their best.
The team started the competition with a very encouraging display against South Africa – one of the two favourites for the whole tournament. After reaching 142, underpinned by a typically skilful and determined innings of 50 from Kari Anderson, South Africa were showing real concern when they were reduced to 79 for 4 in their reply. Unfortunately, after three or four overs where some risky shots just failed to produce a further wicket, the batters started playing very sensibly and South Africa ultimately reached our total without further loss.
The next game was against Bangladesh, a match the Wildcats had targeted for a win. Unfortunately we just did not play to our potential and lost comfortably. There was better fortune in the next game when we beat Papua New Guinea in a very close contest, probably closer than it should have been.
Our last game was against Pakistan who bowled well and reached our total quite comfortably albeit after a scare when Kirstie Gordon took 4 wickets.
All in all, the team and coaching staff were probably disappointed at the overall outcome but it is a measure of how far the Wildcats have come in recent times that a target was set of beating one of the test nations. The team and support staff should be very proud of their efforts and they represented Scottish cricket in an exemplary manner.
In this they were supported by, undoubtedly, the best fans at the tournament. Not only did we have more there than any other team but we were much louder than everyone else! So much so that the Wildcat’s Tartan Army were specifically thanked by the ICC for the atmosphere they had brought to the tournament! But it was not just the ICC who took notice. Wisden India in an article said:
“Cricket teams are often family, but the Scotland side stands out as a community. The girls enjoy the loudest support among teams at the global events they’ve been part of. Family, friends and club mates from back home follow the team, flags and sun block and chants in tow – and don’t hold back from telling the players to put their backs into it!”
No blog on the trip could finish without mentioning the international retirement of Kari Anderson at its end. As we all know, Kari has “been women’s cricket” in Scotland for so long and we owe her an immense debt of gratitude. But her retirement gives the next generation the chance to step up and take on that mantle. With a squad aged mainly 25 and under we have a group of players who have the potential to grow into a real force in women’s cricket.
I look forward to Steve, Abbi and the rest of the group showing us and the rest of the world how good they really are in the next few years! And I also look forward to my next trip with the Wildcats Tartan Army, wherever that may be - I know now I will have to go into strict training to be able to keep up with them!