Sean McPartlin - Learn From Adversity, Build on Success

25 Mar

As the Cricket Scotland Annual Report is published, it seems like a good time for a supporter to reflect on our World Cup experience and its ramifications. 

The players, of course, as a team and as individuals, started this reflection immediately after the last ball in their first match; analysis of personal and team performance is an important part of today’s technical approach to the game, the refining of skills, and the improvement of performance. 

For those of us who “sit up and wait” as supporters, the process is perhaps less crucial, but nevertheless an interesting part of our love of the game and pride in the team. 

In a previous Blog I predicted we would have enough golden moments in this World Cup to produce an inspirational  DVD to promote the game in Scotland – and it’s great to know I have been proved right: a number of tumbling catches, all round high level fielding standards, that stunning 159 from Kyle Coetzer, 50s from the skipper, Richie Berrington, Freddie Coleman and Matt Machan (whose name means “Mate” in Sri Lanka apparently!), Josh Davey’s bowling, and his time as leading wicket taker in the competition, Majid Haq becoming our record wicket taker, Matthew Cross’s super performance– especially that dismissal of James Taylor, and becoming leading Scotland ODI catcher behind the stumps, wickets from Ali Evans and Richie Berrington – often when they were most needed. All those moments mean I look forward to the release of the DVD! 

As if we did not know it before, we have had it re-emphasised that, at this level of cricket, one bad ball an over will inevitably be punished, and any lapse of concentration as a batsman is liable to lead to a quick return to the pavilion. 

On the other hand, we have seen that our cricketers can go head to head with any team in the world without fear of embarrassment. Certainly, as an Associate member, we are some way below the elite nations in all round, consistent performance – but on their day, all of our players whether bowling, batting or fielding can produce top level cricket, dismiss the stars, or dispatch the world’s top bowlers over the ropes. We’ve broken first the 200 and then the 300 total in a World Cup, and were three balls or two yards away from a famous first victory. We now approach World Cup tournaments looking for victories – rather than fearing embarrassment.

Of particular note was the number of occasions  – either with bat or ball, when things looked tough, and we found a partnership to stick in, raise the run rate, contain the batsmen, or take vital wickets. It was a new mental toughness which speaks well of the preparation the squad received, and which will stand us in good stead in future competitions.

When we started this campaign , only one squad player had ever played in the World Cup final stages, now we have fourteen players with such experience – which they can take back to county, or club, or future international fixtures. As a predominantly young group of players, they can only improve with such involvement at the top level. 

However, this also points towards one of the current dilemmas for the game – especially given the ICC’s avowed aim to develop the sport globally. Inevitably, over the past month Scotland has had players with 20 or 30 caps at official ODI level facing teams full of experienced professionals with four or five times that number of international one day appearances. Until a way is found of providing opportunities for the associate members to test themselves against the top nations on a regular basis it is hard to see a route to genuine progress. 

By their performances, the associate countries have made it plain at this World Cup that a reduced number of teams in future competitions should not be an option, but we have also seen that, as is always the case in international sport, excellence tends to run in cycles. The game can stagnate without some kind of promotion and relegation in the set up.  

The incipient moves to ease open the door into the elite echelons of international cricket are to be welcomed – but teams like Scotland need those  regular games against higher rated opposition. The fixture lists sometimes seem hugely overcrowded, but maybe even the top nations would benefit from the chance to regroup and regain form in fixtures at a lower level of intensity from time to time. We have also seen from Ireland’s experiences how a victory over a Test playing nation can accelerate the speed of progress. 

The Irish, of course, benefit from a national media which strongly backs their team, and a population who famously support any team in green whatever the sport – from Katie Taylor in boxing, through Sean Kelly in cycling, to Steph Roche in women’s football. We need to market our game, challenge the media on their coverage, and work further on our publicity at home. 

Many  decisions remain however, outwith Cricket Scotland’s control. In the meantime, we can look back on some fine individual performances and a record in the World Cup which, if, so far,  has  failed to produce our first victory, has  embarrassed neither our country nor the associate game. 

We might rejoice in the successes of our celtic cousins, and perhaps indulge in a little schadenfreude at the plight of our nearest neighbours, but,  as supporters, we have all come to terms with various patterns of sleep deprivation, and thanks to the wonders of social media, have made friends with members of the cricket family all over the world – which is surely one of  cricket’s great capacities. 

And when I regain my place on the chilly summits of the Grange  pavilion in a month or so, I’ll be remembering some fabulous World Cup performances – from those representing Scotland, and from the other nations who took part. I’ll continue to be  proud to #followScotland and I’ll still be #backingblue.

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