Smith excited at prospect of co-hosting T20 Qualifiers
Roddy Smith was in upbeat mood as he contemplated Scotland and Ireland co-hosting the ICC’s qualifying tournament in 2015 for World T20 tournament the following year in India. The chief executive of Cricket Scotland appreciates that it will be a major undertaking – and one which will test the logistical and event management capabilities of both Associate Members – but Smith was understandably delighted that a competition with a truly global scope, and one which will involve countries as far afield as Canada, the USA, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Nepal and Namibia, will be staged at a variety of venues throughout the two Celtic nations.
“In the past the ICC have asked for bidders for these type of qualifying events, but this time, they have come to us and Ireland and invited us to host it and, of course, it is fantastic news, because it gives us the chance to showcase the whole country to the rest of the Associate world,” said Smith. “We’ll be sitting down and discussing how best to proceed with our Irish counterparts, but we already have some basic information.
“We are talking about a tournament which will feature 16 teams, and 72 matches, with two groups of eight, and it seems sensible that one of these should be based in Scotland and the other in Ireland. It is certainly a big undertaking and there are plenty of issues which will have to be discussed, such as the best venues, and whether we stage one match a day or have double-headers at various grounds, but we have a full two years to plan for this, and ourselves and Cricket Ireland will start work on this immediately.”
The plan has obvious benefits for both governing bodies, not least in terms of generating heightened interest in Twenty20, with six of the participants gaining berths for the full-blooded action in India, which has become the hub for the whole short-format variety of the game. Smith and his opposite number in Ireland, Warren Deutrom, will also have the opportunity to take the combatants to every part of their respective lands, and although Smith was reluctant to begin discussing specifics before the two men have even met, there is a chance to stage fixtures in almost every Scottish city, considering the significant number of matches which will have to be arranged in a short time-frame.
“We know we have good venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow and, hopefully, the new facilities in Stirling will be ready by the stage of the qualifying competition,” said Smith, who also praised Aberdeen’s Mannofield facilities, while he watched his compatriots do battle with Kenya in the World Cricket League. “The ICC has usually tended to hold these type of events in Dubai [where their headquarters are based], and there are definitely no shortage of world-class facilities over there, but perhaps, they suit the African and Asian countries better than the European ones, so it will be fascinating to see how everybody reacts to a Twenty20 tournament being staged in northern Europe.
“My own view is that it will be different playing T20 in Scotland from doing it in Sharjah or Afghanistan [where pitches tend to offer more spin and less pace], but, whatever happens, this is an exciting development for us. We all recognise how popular Twenty20 has been with family audiences, and among younger cricket fans, and our job is to put on something which will both appeal to existing fans and make new ones.”
That should not prove difficult if the organisers appreciate the need for a pan-Scottish approach to their task, rather than basing the event around the central belt. Indeed, one gets the feeling from Smith that he is relishing the opportunity to break down barriers and preach to the unconverted, and, for those who believe that Scotland has so far been overly diffident about embracing the Twenty20 culture, that can only be a positive factor.
He and his fellow-officials with convene with their Irish colleagues in the next few weeks to begin the process. With 16 teams in the mix, there will be a myriad issues to be resolved, such as where the various countries are based and what training grounds they will use, and that is even before one moves to the thorny issue of which of the two hosts ends up staging the final, which is likely to gain a vast global audience.
But Smith insisted these matters could and would be resolved this summer. Ultimately, he was right to accentuate the positive nature of this ICC decision.