Sean McPartlin - It all comes round again
Keats called Autumn the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, the Americans call it ‘The Fall’, and, for cricketers, there is always the bitter sweet melancholy of completion of a season which may have encompassed triumph and disaster, and fierce attempts to treat those ‘two imposters just the same’.
It’s been a good cricket summer for me, however, in which, partly due to unusually good weather, I’ve seen more games than ever. I was at Old Trafford for Pietersen’s century and had a glorious two days at Southport to watch Lancashire and Hampshire score 631 runs and take 20 wickets between them.
However, as always, the joy of the summer was to be found in the more familiar setting of the Grange where I saw Scotland play Pakistan, Australia, and Australia A. Whilst these games can most kindly be described as ‘development opportunities’. the chance to see top class international performers in Edinburgh has to be a massive plus for Scottish cricket. Without measuring ourselves against Test playing sides, it will be difficult to make any meaningful progress, and while the lessons learned may be painful, what fails to break us will make us stronger.
In this respect, I’ll be sad to lose the familiarity of county opposition at the Grange on a regular basis in the YB40 League and its predecessors. These competitions have led to some fabulous moments – provided by Scots as well as County players, but, more importantly, have established Scotland as a cricket playing nation to cricket followers across these islands and further afield.
Now our development plan takes us away from regular county cricket fixtures and we must attempt to fill the gap with an increased programme of international games. This challenge brings its own promise, with the familiarity of established county cricketers being replaced by unknown, fresh talent from around the cricketing world.
These times have the potential to be exciting for sport in Scotland. The Commonwealth Games are just around the corner and the new National Centre for Sporting Excellence has just been announced for Riccarton. However, both these events come with a reminder – sport for the elite can only stand as a beacon for the country’s sportsmen and women. Scotland needs participation in sport as much as it needs international glory.
For that reason, despite the unbalanced look of Cricket Scotland’s Win/Lose statistics this season, I continue to be proud of the organization and its successes. It’s impossible to look at the joyful faces of our players at U.19 level, or with the Wildcats, without knowing that success breeds more success and the only sustainable way to growth is incrementally, from youth level to senior squads.
We need to analyse, to reflect on our coaching, our marketing, our planning – as does any organization – but we shouldn’t lose sight of those happy, youthful faces.
Passing the Grange yesterday, I spotted the work already being done by groundstaff on the square in preparation for next season. It was a reminder, like Autumn itself, that the great and lasting joy of cricket is, it all comes round again.