U19 Sri Lanka Tour 2013
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Scotland U19 cricket team were doing their country proud at the ICC U19 World Cup in Australia.
Now a fresh challenge faces the next crop of young and talented Scottish cricketers, as the squad head to Sri Lanka this week to prepare themselves for the crucial World Cup Qualifiers, to be held in Holland later this year.
The youngsters will be looking to maintain Scotland’s impressive recent record in regional and global World Cup qualifiers, which has seen the team record victories from 17 of its past 19 matches, dating back to 2009.
It’s not an entirely new group that coach Craig Wright has at his disposal with five players remaining available from the 2012 World Cup campaign. One of those, Ruaidrhi Smith, unfortunately misses the Sri Lanka trip due to injury, as does promising all-rounder Will Edwards. They have been replaced by up and coming fast bowler Niall Alexander from Dumfries and newcomer Abdul Sabri from Drumpellier who has impressed with the progress he has made over the past year. South African born Kyle Stirling who has been living in Scotland and training with the squad, has also been included.
We caught up with Craig Wright and promising young bowler Gavin Main before they set off on their next campaign.
CS: Craig, how will the squad benefit from this tour to Sri Lanka?
CW: The tour to Sri Lanka, as with all the overseas tours we have done in previous years, serve two fundamental purposes; Firstly they provide an opportunity for the squad to undertake some preparation for whatever events they have coming up, (in this case the qualifiers for the next U19 World Cup), and secondly they are an essential part of our Performance Development programme in that they provide our best young players with challenging experiences of playing environments unlike those they are used to.
The opportunities we present for these players expose them to different conditions and cultures, which is of massive value to them in terms of their development as players and as rounded characters.
CS: What sort of challenge are you expecting out there?
Playing in the subcontinent provides a range of tests which are very different to those experienced by players in our own conditions - the weather is perhaps the most obvious one. Experience the heat and humidity in Sri Lanka in particular will be valuable for the players in learning about how to prepare and manage themselves when playing in extreme conditions, and also how to deal with the physical and mental challenge it provides.
The quality of the opposition is always guaranteed in the sub-continent such is the passion for cricket in that part of the world. In addition batting and bowling on different types of surfaces is also a fantastic learning experience for our players.
Particular challenges will be predominance of quality spin-bowling, including perhaps some “mystery” spin, and the need for batters to continue to develop their games individually to be able to succeed in these conditions. For bowlers the learning will be about bowling different lines, lengths and variations to quality batsmen on pitches where there is less swing or seam movement than they are used to at home.
It is invaluable for our young players to have experience of these challenges with the amount of cricket now played by the national team in the middle East and Asia. Indeed should we qualify the next U19 World Cup is due to be played in the UAE.
What are the changes being made by the ICC re qualification?
The ICC has scrapped the Global qualifying phase prior to the U19 World Cup which ensured that the best Associate teams qualified for the past two U19 World Cups. They have now reverted to a straight one team per region to qualify, which has a significant impact on Europe since we have three of the six current High Performance countries. Ireland and Scotland have been the previous two winners of the global U19 World Cup qualifying event. Finishing 11th & 12th in the 2012 U19 World Cup, with the highest African team (Zimbabwe) finishing 15th. Africa are still guaranteed two World Cup places for 2014, (with Zimbabwe being an ICC Full Member), but only one of Scotland, Ireland and Holland can qualify. In addition a place is being allocated to the UAE as hosts who have never previously qualified for an U19 World Cup.
Will this affect the way you go about preparing for the event?
The changes to the qualifying process won’t alter our preparation at all. We will still prepare as well as we can with the aim of securing the one qualifying spot available.
A lot has been made on the eligibility criteria for the national team, does this have any impact on the way you go about your job?
I don’t see the revised eligibility regulations really changing what we are trying to do in terms of developing Scottish talent. Cricket Scotland has committed to continuing to invest in developing their own players, and Scottish clubs who have a big part to play are investing more than ever before in their coaching infrastructures rather than on highly paid professionals.
What the eligibility regulation change will do is almost certainly make it tougher for young Scottish players to force their way into the senior team if we have a wider pool of players to choose from. For those who have the right character this will inspire them to work even harder and perform even better to make sure they still force their way to the top. I believe we have enough talented young players coming through with the right attitude who will ensure that there remains a core of home grown players in the national side, and we must make sure we continue to provide a coaching and competitive pathway which assists them in maximising their potential. It will be a sad day for Scottish Cricket if we end up in the same situation as other countries with few or no home grown players competing at national team level.
Gavin, You have been part of the squad for a while now, how did you find the experience of being part of the squad that played in the World Cup in Australia last year?
GM: I definitely think the squad that went to Australia were a genuinely good bunch of lads. There was a good mix of older more experienced players (Patrick Sadler, Freddie Coleman and Aman Bailwal) and younger players (Myself, Andrew Umeed, Nick Farrar, Ross McLean). The squad had come to know each other well as it had been together for a couple of years. Even though I broke into the squad later than others, (for the India tour), there were no problems, and I was quickly familiar with the rest. A big part of the squad’s success in Australia was its ability to be honest with each other and to push each other, whether at training or in a match. It was a good experience to be competing with the “big guns” in Australia and to play against different cricketing cultures and styles.
CS: What will be your particular aims and outcomes for the coming tour?
I will be looking to put the winter’s hard work into action out there. It is a really good opportunity to analyse how my bowling is coming along as there is such little margin for error due to the nature of the pitches in Sri Lanka. It is a chance to prepare myself for the coming season by getting lots of overs under the belt and to get miles into the legs in tough conditions. It will be hard work but I am looking to take wickets and prove myself as a strike bowler in the team. Scoring some useful runs and carrying out my role effectively with the bat would also be helpful as there has been a lot of hard work going into my batting over the winter.
CS: What sort of conditions are you expecting to face out there?
The team is expecting it to be very hot and humid in Sri Lanka which will be a real test to the fitness of all involved. It will be an opportunity to show that we can still effectively carry out our skills effectively despite tiredness and fatigue. The flat pitches which may have some turn in them will be a good experience for those in the squad who have not experienced sub-continent pitches before and may prove to be a real challenge.
CS: What are the team aims and targets for the tour?
I think the tour will help us become familiar with the team game plan we look to carry out while helping us to adapt when things are not going according to plan. It will give individuals the chance to practice and understand their specific role in a match situation. The tour will also provide time for the squad to get to know each other a bit more as it is a relatively new group coming together.
We hope to prove ourselves in Sri Lanka and to prepare for the World Cup Qualifiers which will take place in Holland this season. Our goal is to win the Qualifiers and therefore take part in the U19 World Cup next February and become the most successful Scottish Under 19 cricket team.
CS: Thanks for your time and good look on tour!
Abdul Sabri (Drumpellier CC)
Alex Baum (Greenock CC)
Andrew Umeed (West of Scotland CC, High School of Glasgow)
Chayank Gosain (Carlton CC)
Gavin Main (Durham CCC, Uddingston CC, High School of Glasgow)
Gregor Thomson (West Lothian CC)
Haris Aslam (Carlton CC)
Haris Chaudhry (Clydesdale CC, Hutcheson’s Grammar School)
Kyle Stirling (Carlton CC)
Lyle Hill (Clydesdale CC, The Glasgow Academy)
Michael English (Ferguslie CC)
Neil Alexander (Dumfries CC)
Nick Farrar (Stirling County CC)
Ross McLean (Arbroath CC, captain)
Zander Muir (Grange CC)