Scotland U19 squad head for World Cup Qualifier
Craig Wright has been involved in Scottish cricket for long enough to realise that the only means of persuading the ICC Full Members to sit up and take notice of their Associate counterparts is by qualifying for – and making a mark in – major competitions.
Hence the former Scotland captain’s evident desire to instil a winning mentality in his under-19 charges, as they get ready to participate in the European qualifying tournament in the Netherlands, commencing on Friday, for next year’s full-blown World Cup.
There is no margin for error during the following week’s frenetic schedule, with only the victors progressing to the prestigious global event: a situation which Wright regards as being hardly ideal, given how his compatriots, the Dutch and the Irish are all doing their utmost to stimulate interest in the sport, but only one will feature on the world stage.
“We had our final training session this afternoon, and I suppose I am getting used to preparing for these competitions by now, but this should be an exciting week for the lads and we realise that every game we play will almost be like a Cup final,” said Wright, whose personnel enjoyed an 100% record in the last qualifying event of this kind in 2010. “We have some guys [such as Arbroath-based captain, Ross McLean, Andrew Umeed, Nick Farrar and Gavin Main], who played in the last World Cup and they all savoured the experience and most of the other boys have turned out in various under-15 or under-17 tournaments, so there is a lot of ambition in the squad and they recognise what is at stake.Yet, as he told Cricket Scotland, that knowledge should provide a genuine edge to the proceedings, with the Scots beginning their five-match campaign against Jersey on Friday, prior to tackling the hosts, Denmark, Guernsey and Ireland.
“There is no fallback – the winners in Holland go to the World Cup and everybody else stays at home. But our preparations have gone well, the weather has been much better this summer, which has allowed everybody to play lots of outdoor matches, and one of the features of the squad is how many players in it have been doing well for their clubs.
“That has to be positive and we have lads from all over Scotland, from Arbroath to Dumfries, and StirlingCounty to Greenock, as well as the two biggest cities, and I have been encouraged by the maturity of the youngsters. They know this is a rare chance for them to appear at the highest level and I can see they are desperate to seize it.”
Wright always set himself high standards, both with the Saltires and on Scotland duty throughout his illustrious career, and it is obvious he wants his confreres to demonstrate the virtues of qualities such as resilience and a strong team ethic, allied to the philosophy there is no substitute for hard work. To that end, and as a coach with a commitment to collectivism, he is never interested in cracking up certain individuals in any of his squads.
Yet, there is no denying the talent of characters such as McLean, one of a burgeoning number of prodigies blazing a trail at Lochlands Park, Umeed, who once produced such a mature display at Mannofield that none of us present could believe he was just 17, or the Carlton duo, Chayank (“Cheeky”) Gosain and Kyle Stirling, who have done the Edinburgh club proud in recent months, while they celebrate their 150th anniversary.
Given the ability of these characters, and their impact on the club circuit, there is no reason why the Scots should not be challenging once more. Yet Wright took pains to stress his view that this isn’t simply a three-way fight between the trio of Associates.
“I think that it would be very remiss and dangerous for us to take anything for granted, because all the competing sides have quality performers and several teams in Europe are making positives strides forward,” said Wright. “We have to focus on getting our skills right in every game – and it is a pretty hectic itinerary – but our guys have been in this position before, and they realise they need to hit the ground running. We can’t afford to be complacent against anybody and, from my perspective, that is exactly as it should be.”
These are exactly the situations which bring out the best in Wright, as he continues to plot the future of Scotland’s elite stars. His attitude that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains should stand the party in good stead once the European jousts commence.
SCOTLAND UNDER-19 SQUAD
Ross McLean (Arbroath, captain), Niall Alexander (Dumfries), Alex Baum (Greenock), Will Edwards (Grange), Michael English (Ferguslie) Nick Farrar (Stirling County), Chayank Gosain (Carlton), Lyle Hill (Clydesdale), Gavin Main (Uddingston & Durham Academy), Zander Muir (Grange), Abdul Sabri (Drumpellier), Kyle Stirling (Carlton), Andrew Umeed (West of Scotland), Mark Watt (Heriots).
Scotland Fixture Schedule
August 2: Scotland v Jersey.
August 3: Netherlands v Scotland.
August 5: Scotland v Denmark.
August 6: Scotland v Guernsey.
August 8: Scotland v Ireland.