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Oli Hairs: It really makes you realise how lucky you are playing at this level

Gary Heatly talks to Eastern Knights' Oli Hairs ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier.

Cricket Scotland @CricketScotland
October 4, 2019 2 weeks
Oli Hairs: It really makes you realise how lucky you are playing at this level

Oli Hairs made his Scotland ODI debut against the Netherlands in 2010 before he made his T20I bow against the same opponents nine years later – and now the left handed batsmen is ready to kick on in the latter format in the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in the UAE.

When left handed batsman Hairs, who went to Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, burst onto the senior cricketing scene with Grange and his country around a decade ago he took things by storm with his hard hitting.

Indeed, such was his destructive batting style that he earned five ODI caps for Scotland in the summer of 2010 having just turned 19.

University took Hairs southwards to York and his international involvement ended rather abruptly.

Three years were spent there before he headed to play cricket in Australia only for a very bad knee injury to end his time in the southern hemisphere.

After he recovered from the setback he played club cricket for a year alongside players such as Freddie Coleman and Nav Poonia who were also Scotland caps.

From there he moved down to Surrey and he played in that area and coached as well before a return to the capital this summer.

In recent months he has starred with Grange and the Eastern Knights and that led to his national team selection for the recent tour to Ireland and the upcoming showpiece tournament.

“After a lot of sacrifice, tough decisions and hard work over the summer, stepping out for Scotland after such a long period away recently was a fantastic feeling,” Hairs, now 28, stated.

“There is still a lot of hard work to go moving forward and I don’t think being back in the Scotland set-up has fully sunk in yet after a very hectic summer.

“In the last eight years I have learnt a lot about my game, but mostly about myself.

“A lot of cricket is mental and understanding what makes you tick and how you manage certain things is vital to helping you get the best out of yourself on the pitch. 

“With the decisions I have made over the summer, and how fast paced it has all been, having the resources provide by Cricket Scotland has been a massive help. Louise [Finlayson, the leadership consultant] has led that and been awesome.

“Playing wise, being involved at various levels and coaching a range of abilities has given me the opportunity to learn about the game and what the sport itself actually brings to people. 

“It really makes you realise how lucky you are playing at this level. It’s not going to last forever, so I have learnt the need to enjoy every aspect the sport provides.”

In the T20 game the way batsmen look to score runs is constantly evolving and with a bag of tricks in his locker along with pure power this format of the game seems made for Hairs.

“I remember practicing and playing reverse sweeps when I was at school and as teams found out how I played they started to set fields as soon as I came to the crease, trying to cut off and limit my target areas,” he stated.

“I have always loved watching players who entertain at the crease and now I have a better understanding of the reasoning behind these shots.

“Having the opportunity to work with and alongside so many top coaches and players allows me to learn and develop. 

“Having [head coach] Shane Burger, and now Grant [Morgan, the assistant coach], on board has enabled me to get back up to the speed of international cricket very quickly. 

“The whole structure is fantastic at the moment. The Knights team – Stevie Gilmour and Fraser Watts – have put a lot of time and energy into my game. 

“John Blain has also been a great asset to have at Grange, he has thrown a lot of balls over the summer and been a big help.

“Taking in as much information from their vast playing experience and coaching expertise can only help my game moving forward.”

So, with four T20Is under his belt ahead of the big qualifying tournament, how does ‘new boy’ Hairs see the Scotland squad?

“The squad is in a great place, we are very confident,” he said.

“Being new to the team it’s been very easy to settle in and I can’t thank the group enough for making the transition back in so smooth. We have a squad of match winners and it’s going to be a great tournament.

“It would be a great honour, as well as fantastic stepping stone for the sport in Scotland, if we can reach the World Cup.”

Scotland left Edinburgh on Wednesday, October 2 to travel to Durban for a week-long training camp before arriving into Dubai on October 11 in anticipation of qualifying event which begins on October 18.

The top team from each group will advance to the semi-final of the tournament whilst securing direct qualification to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020, with three more teams from each group featuring in qualification play-offs to determine the other four qualifiers.

Scotland have been placed into Group A alongside the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Kenya and Bermuda and will play their group games in Dubai.

Scotland squad: Kyle Coetzer (c), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Oliver Hairs, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Adrian Neill, Safyaan Sharif, Tom Sole, Hamza Tahir, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt.

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