Just as the Eskimos have fifty words for snow, so might the Scots when it comes to self-effacement. A passing glance at the adopted national anthem, for example, reveals all a non-native need know about the humble modesty that is hard-wired into Caledonian DNA. Where that other, official, song celebrates Wade and those ‘rebellious Scots to crush’, so, in the rather coyer words of Roy Williamson, Proud Edward’s Army found themselves sent homeward from their humiliation at Bannockburn to merely ‘think again.’
There are few Scottish sportsmen who could better illustrate that sense of understatement than Richie Berrington. Quietly, unassumingly, the versatile all-rounder has firmly established his place as a central player within the Scotland team. Over 1600 international limited overs runs, 37 wickets and a host of blinding moments in the field say all that is needed to be said.
Berrington’s record is studded with match-winning performances, most notably that crunching 56-ball T20I hundred which powered Scotland to victory against Bangladesh, and their first over a Full Member nation, in 2012. At the time only the seventh to have been scored in T20 international cricket – and the first by any Associate player – it was an extraordinary performance which will always be remembered as one of the most significant in the Scottish game.
Berrington remains the only Scot to have registered hundreds in both forms of limited overs cricket and, as Scotland prepare to kick off a crucial year in Dubai with the Desert T20, he is looking forward to helping his side make the best possible start to 2017.
“Firstly, we’re just excited about getting some cricket,” he said. “It’s been a while since we played our last game so just getting out there and playing in a tournament will be great.
“I’m looking forward to contributing as much as I can. I’ve had quite an important role in the side for a few years now and I’d like to maintain that and help us win as many games as possible.”
It may have given a mixed bag in terms of fixtures, with the World T20 at the start of the year followed by a lean, weather-affected summer, but 2016 contained some notable personal landmarks for the twenty-nine-year-old. In August Berrington, along with Preston Mommsen and Kyle Coetzer, reached 1000 career ODI runs during the 98-run win over UAE, joining Neil McCallum and Gavin Hamilton in passing that landmark. Added to domestic honours with Clydesdale as they secured the Western Premier and Scottish Cup double and he can look back on 2016 with some satisfaction.
“Yeah, overall it was a good season,” said Berrington. “I was very proud to reach a thousand runs for Scotland.
“Like everyone else we would have liked to have been playing more as there wasn’t a huge amount of international cricket happening over the summer but it obviously gave us an opportunity to play a lot more cricket with our club teams.”
That in itself summarises the problem facing Associate cricket. The increasingly unbalanced blend of club and international cricket has become a norm for Associate players across the world but Berrington, whilst hopeful of what the future might bring, is determined to make the most of the situation.
“Moving back and forward between club to international cricket can be a challenge, especially when the playing conditions are very different, but to be honest it’s something we have become used to over the years. It is just how things work at the moment.
“We hope things may be changing, that we will get more international fixtures in the future, but in the meantime when we play club cricket we try and prepare exactly as we would for an international game and then play with that same attitude on the field. We make sure that we are getting the best prep we can.
“But it’s always nice to go back and play with the guys for your local team. To have some success with Clydesdale has been brilliant, we had a very good team this year and put in some outstanding performances throughout the season.”
The most notable part of the international season had come in India, of course. Following on from the 2015 World Cup Scotland’s appearance at the World T20, although bringing that first tournament victory, still ended with an early, all-too-familiar exit.
This time, though, there is a sense around the Scottish game that things are going to be different. The reappraisal of Scotland’s approach in the time following the return from India has led to a small but significant shift in style both on and off the field, and Berrington is looking forward to being a part of what may be to come.
“(The World Cup and World T20) was a disappointing time to be honest. Although we got that first win we didn’t get as far as we wanted to in either of those tournaments and there was a fair bit of reflection afterwards.
“Although we haven’t played a huge amount of cricket since then the time we have spent together as a group has been very positive. We have been working on several aspects of our game and we’re looking to keep putting them into practice when we get out there.
“It was really good to back it up with solid performances against UAE and Hong Kong in the summer and we’re looking to carry that momentum into January and beyond.”
Scotland’s onward journey will have to resume without Preston Mommsen, of course. The news of his retirement at the age of twenty-nine dealt a blow to the side both on and off the field but Berrington is confident that Scotland can, and will, continue to move forward.
“As everyone knows it is a big loss to Scottish cricket to lose not only a quality player but a fantastic leader both in the dressing room and on the field too.
“Losing Preston is a blow but we have a good mixture of youth and experience in the side and a lot of talented players. There is still a good opportunity for all of us, starting when we get out there in January.”
And so to Dubai. The chance to take on the other seven leading Associate nations gives Scotland a great opportunity both to gauge their progress and put down a marker as they move forward.
“All our focus is on this tournament coming up. We want to win it,” said Berrington.
“We know that all the opposition will be tough, especially in this format of the game. There are so many quality sides around in Associate cricket just now so we know we’re going to have to play good, competitive cricket.
“We know most of the teams well now but it’s very much about ourselves and getting the things that we do right.
“If we can do that then I think we’ll do well.”