Sean McPartlin - I can hear the grass grow
Sean McPartlin - Cricket Scotland Blogger, Sean McPartlin, gives us his perceptions of how the great game is growing in Scotland.
I dreamt last night that the Scotland team were playing in my garden – short boundaries, ropey hedges, dodgy monoblocking and all. I had just asked Majid Haq if I should move the couch closer to the window so he had a better view of the wicket – when I woke up.
Dream psychology wouldn’t be one of my strengths at the best of times, but this one really puzzled me. What could it possibly mean?
Dismissing the most likely answer – that the lawn really does need mowing urgently – irrespective of how it is going to be used in the near future – I chose to interpret it as a message that these may well be halcyon days for Scottish cricket.
Our aim, of course, is Test status – and the ICC seem to have opened up a route for that achievement, as well as a challenge to our players and staff to chase the dream.
It would be wonderful for the game in Scotland – and for players and supporters alike -if we reached that particular Holy Grail – but maybe we also need to appreciate what we have at the moment before preparing for that headlong rush into the Test arena.
This season is a big one for the international team: young players are coming through and there is the World Cup in focus. A new National coach is in place, as well as a newly appointed Senior Operations Manager. If we look at our senior squad, as well as exciting young talent, we have a number of players involved regularly with county teams in England. We also have a steady nucleus of seasoned internationalists on whom we can rely.
Our youth set up is flourishing and the Wildcats are giving women’s cricket a profile on a level far higher than ever achieved before. Beyond that, various forms of cricket coaching and introductory programmes are spread widely across the country and in our schools.
No organization can get everything right all of the time, and some developments require patience and perspective to be clearly seen, but, across the game – from senior level to development areas, there is a positivity.
Put simply – people are enjoying their cricket in Scotland.
If we look around the Test playing nations, perhaps the sweet smell of success is slightly tarnished by the pressures which accompany it. In England, the fall out from the Pietersen affair continues, match fixing and the Buttler run out hog the headlines, press releases are scrutinized, pundits are second guessing, the media stand ready to pounce on any signs of success or failure. Players burn out or suffer from various disorders as they boomerang from one continent to another, playing different forms of cricket in the harsh glare of a television regime which is always desperate for controversy and upset. The rewards are great, the performances often stellar, but the price, it seems, has to be paid.
Our Scottish teams may not reach the international heights on a regular basis, but the scene here has the benefits of a strong connection with reality. Our players perform in the everyday setting of county or club cricket, they play and work alongside supporters, they are approachable and grounded, and mercifully free to operate outwith the suffocating media and marketing bubble which seems to envelop all top level sport these days. Youngsters across the country who are keen and talented can see a route to cricketing success in Scotland, and can learn from heroes who are first and foremost cricketers rather than media stars.
Nobody can deny the thrill of top flight performance in sport, and the attractions of mega salaries and contracts are self evident, but I’m not sure whether those Scotland players who celebrated World Cup qualification were any less joyful than Ashes winners, and I’m pretty certain that the response from family and friends when they returned home was as valuable to them as the clamour of the media circus which attends a series victory in the Test arena.
Our players make many sacrifices to perform at international level, and I guess they must really want that success badly. They deserve the rewards and acclamation which come from performing at the highest level; I’m not sure they deserve the downside of that success.
We must keep making progress, developing the game, supporting our players and seeking to reach the highest level possible – but it would be nice to think we could also retain some of what makes us Cricket Scotland – for all its faults and idiosyncrasies – big can be awesome, but small can also be beautiful.
Meanwhile, I’m away to cut the grass, just in case……
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Scotland