Cricket may be put on hold in the current climate, but the break has allowed three members of the Scotland men’s under-19 squad to take a step back and look at what they learnt from the recent World Cup in South Africa in January.
The group of players, under the guidance of experienced coaching panel Cedric English, Gordon Drummond and Toby Bailey, went into the showpiece event feeling good after a strong qualifying campaign last summer.
The players, led well by captain Angus Guy of Clydesdale, knew that they would face tougher challenges in South Africa and while some days were tricky as young athletes, you learn so much from ups and downs and playing against the best.
No more was their battling qualities on show than in the Plate quarter-final.
After three pool stage defeats, the boys’ heads could have gone down, but they bowled well to restrict the UAE to 249 all out from their 50 overs and then, with Uzzair Shah and Tom Mackintosh both hitting half-centuries, they won the game by seven wickets after a well-paced reply.
In the end, the team finished 12th in the tournament that was won by Bangladesh and, with a number of 16 and 17-year-olds having been involved for the Scots, there is plenty to build on – and enthusiasm – for the future in Scottish cricket.
One of the 16-year-olds involved was Grange spinner Jamie Cairns.
Over the last couple of years, he has played a lot of senior cricket at club level and he feels playing in the intense environment in South Africa has taught him a lot about his game.
“We worked together well as a team throughout the event, we knew that we would be up against some top-quality teams, but as a player you want to test yourself against the best,” he said.
“I would have liked to win more games while we were out there, but I think the main ‘work on’ that we brought back from it was that we now know what good, high-quality cricket looks like and we are now all determined to reach those levels.
“Having had a taste of it now it will drive me on for the next two or three years and I want to use the standards that I saw as a benchmark for myself as I continue to aim to get better.
“As a bowler, I learnt a lot because at that level you have to think about every ball as an individual thing. Whether you get hit for a boundary or whatever, as soon as it has happened it has gone and you must focus on the next ball and what you are going to do rather than wallowing.
“The coaches were really helpful whilst we were out there and the analysis and preparation that we put in before and after games showed us the level of detail that has to be put into your cricket as you move up the levels.
“The spin bowling unit worked a lot with Toby and, overall, I took a lot from the experience and it made me want to play at more big events in the future.”
Seam bowler Sean Fischer-Keogh, 17, did not play in the qualifiers but put in a lot of hard work to impress the coaches to make the plane for South Africa.
The Greenock player performed admirably when called upon and he feels the trip has left him a lot more confident about his cricket and the ability to lead an attack going forward.
“I played for Scotland under-15s previously and, after my hard work and performances at club level, I was added to the under-19 training squad soon after the qualifiers last summer,” he explained.
“When I was then picked to go to the World Cup I was pretty surprised, but over the moon and it led to a great experience.
“As an opening bowler I knew I was going to be bowling on different wickets than I was used to and against some really good batsmen, but I was looking forward to that.
“The seam bowling group within our squad worked really well together led by Rory Hanley [19 and with experience of playing for Durham] and we talked through different tactics such as building your overs, setting fields and preparing for different types of batsmen.
“I also learnt a lot from watching the seamers from other countries and I feel in senior cricket, at club level and beyond I will now be more assured in my own game.”
Along with the aforementioned Hanley, fellow 19-year-old Kess Sajjad from Poloc was one of the more experienced players in the group.
This was his last taste of age-grade cricket and he feels it has given him a good platform to build from as he aims to push on for Scotland development and Scotland ‘A’ recognition.
The Glaswegian all-rounder who scored 68 with the bat against Zimbabwe said: “I was feeling in a good place heading into the tournament in South Africa.
“In club cricket competitions over here the matches are always tough, but straight away over there you realised that there is no margin for error at the top level.
“Every player you are coming up against is quality and presents you with a different challenge and you just have to adapt to that and back your own abilities.
“I have worked with Cedric and Gordon as coaches for the last couple of years and I have learnt a lot. I think they have helped me develop my cricket and I want to take a lot of learnings from the under-19s qualifiers and World Cup that we have had into the future.
“The great thing about the World Cup was that it gave a number of 16 and 17-year-olds the chance to show what they can do and Cricket Scotland is always keen to give young players a chance, so I think the future is pretty bright in that respect.”