It’s my party – and I’ll cry if I want to

13 Mar

Sean McP
Published 13 March 2013

Sean McPartlin: It’s my party – and I’ll cry if I want to

A cricket clubhouse on an August Saturday night, the mid seventies. Around me, are the celebrating members of our 2nd X1 – my team. Over a couple of years, these guys have become more than playing colleagues – they are friends, confidantes,.

They are celebrating a league championship; an unfashionable FP side for a school that no longer existed, a press ganged mix of folk from every corner of the globe – Holy Cross 2nd X1 have won the league.

There’s only one problem, one reason for the lack of bite in my beer: I’ve spent the whole summer playing friendlies on Sundays. In our championship season, the only chance I’ll probably ever have of getting a medal, I’ve not been selected for a single league start.

Charles is the reason. Like me an opening bowler, but unlike me, possessed of ability. Better coached, more talented, and, damn it, a thoroughly nice guy, he has taken my place in the side, and contributed hugely.

I could have switched clubs and play in another side, or stay put, play friendlies, and watch from the sidelines. Although I wanted to win as much as the next man, playing with friends in a positive environment was more important, so I stayed.

When the Scottish squad for the UAE was announced, with the revelation that the newly clarified ‘granny rule’ had been embraced, I thought the squad impressive and progressive. Some questioned that: a retired county player and a handful of pros keeping young Scottish talent out of the side? How could that be progressive?

I thought it impressive because we had added experience to our squad, and I thought it progressive because we had moved on to a new approach; we had decided to speculate to accumulate.

Cricket Scotland is rightly winning awards for its development programme and more  youngsters are gaining contracts in county cricket. However, to attract the funding and  sponsorship to move on to the next level, with a full time professional squad, we must put out a side that is more than just aspirational.

Given the cricket blind spot in the Scottish media most of the time, Scotland need to get eyecatching victories over top nations and be up there with Ireland as the best of the rest. Such success will attract funds, enabling us to build further and develop our young talent – and being part of a squad including seasoned professionals can only be good for younger players.

England, ten times the size of Scotland, seem happy  with a dressing room where the clipped tones of Pietermaritzburg compete with the brogue of Dublin. If that is the way international cricket is to be, then Scotland surely must take advantage?

When Jack Charlton went ‘granny hunting’ to boost the Irish soccer team, he ended up giving the Irish a wonderful, totally unexpected decade. Of course, it couldn’t, and didn’t, last. However, the result of that success was felt far beyond the international zone. In ten years, the database of qualified Irish soccer coaches has risen from 2.500 to  32,000 – and Ireland has become a ‘go to’ destination for scouts from the  UK leagues. They have built on the interest generated by that initial success, and, as a result, young Irish talent is coming through in greater numbers than ever before.

I agree with Craig Wright; I think the presence of the ‘newly qualified’ players in the Scotland squad will raise the game for our developing indigenous talent. It’s also a win-win. If their presence brings more success, our profile will rise, and development will be hastened; if it fails, then at least we will have investigated every possibility in our drive for improvement.

And Holy Cross 2nd X1?

Well, the interest generated by that league championshipmeant the club expanded to run three and then four elevens. Indeed, if I had decided to play into my dotage, they may well have had to run a 6th and 7th eleven so I still got a game!

I still miss that medal, but I enjoyed twenty five happy years with the club.

Sometimes you just have to look at the bigger picture.

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