HAVING last played in the World Cup in 2007, Scotland’s cricketers might be considered to be doing relatively well in comparison with this nation’s footballing fraternity who have not graced a global finals since 1998.
Such a glib assumption, however, will receive short shrift with anyone associated with the bat-and-ball game in this country. In addition to their failure to reach the 2011 50-over World Cup in the sub-continent, the Scots have not been present at three consecutive WorldT20 competitions.
Their latest near-miss came as recently as two months ago when they were unable to finish in the top six of a sixteen-team qualifier for this spring’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh – as a consequence of which Pete Steindl, national coach for the last six years, lost his job.
The failure might not have attracted front-page headlines in the manner of England’s pitiful Ashes whitewash but the pain was felt all the same. However, unlike their English counterparts who must wait two years for another Test series against Australia, Scotland’s redemption may be just around the corner. A week today, Kyle Coetzer’s men open a new qualifying campaign when they face Hong Kong in New Zealand.
The prize is a place at the 2015 World Cup and with it a guaranteed $1m, consolidation of one-day international status and untold riches in terms of kudos and a much-needed feelgood factor throughout Scottish cricket.
Little wonder, then, that everyone associated with Cricket Scotland is singing from the same songbook – and sounding in remarkably good voice.
“Failure doesn’t really bear thinking about,” acknowledged Roddy Smith, the chief executive. “In addition to the quantifiable sum of one million US dollars there is the knock-on benefit that we would get from an increased programme of fixtures against test-playing countries and their A teams.
Only two places are left to be claimed at the 2015 tournament to be staged in Australia and New Zealand, the first two on offer to Associate ICC members having been claimed by Ireland and Afghanistan.
Scotland, in Group A with Canada, UAE, Nepal and Hong Kong, will start favourites with the Netherlands to come through. However, they were fancied to claim one of those six places on offer at the WorldT20 finals only to finish seventh during a painful qualifying tournament in the UAE.
Nothing can therefore be taken for granted, though both the longer format and New Zealand conditions should suit the Scots.
“I firmly believe, if we play to our potential, we will qualify,” added Smith. “It has been too long since we performed on the global stage – four tournaments in all – and we simply have to be there for the good of the game in this country.”
As he said, though, Smith is not contemplating failure and neither is captain Kyle Coetzer or the joint interim coaching team of Craig Wright and Paul Collingwood.
Despite a chastening T20 experience, Coetzer said: “We’ve put that campaign to bed and are looking ahead. We’re feeling confident and are focused on the task in hand.”
Wright, meanwhile, would be happy to shed the mantle of Scotland’s most successful captain of recent times. The Intercontinental Cup and the ICC Trophy, the forerunner of the ICC World Cup Qualifier, were won under Wright’s leadership almost a decade ago.
However, he said: “This group of players definitely have the ability to qualify. What they have to do is impose themselves on the opposition and play a positive brand of cricket.”
Wright has an equally upbeat colleague in Collingwood, a fellow whose motivational qualities are held in such high regard that Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, yesterday led calls for the Durham all-rounder to be whisked forthwith to Sydney to boost sapped English morale ahead of their one-day series with Australia.
Collingwood, however, is committed to the Scottish cause, saying: “I’m enjoying my role with Scotland. I’ve got a month here in New Zealand and we’re focused trying to qualify for the World Cup.
“Hopefully, I can help make them better cricketers and they can learn a lot from me.”
Friday: Scotland v PNG (Christchurch, warm-up)
Saturday: Scotland v Namibia (Christchurch, warm-up)
13 Jan: Scotland v Hong Kong (Queenstown)
16 Jan: Scotland v Canada (Queenstown)
19 Jan: Scotland v UAE (Queenstown)
23 Jan: Scotland v Canada (Christchurch)