WHEN Iain Wardlaw’s make-or-break day arrived, he had no idea which way the chips would fall. He was 25 and doing the books for a design agency to pay the bills while cricket was a mere hobby. But he still had a dream to chase.
Worcestershire had offered him a trial but Yorkshire, his native county, actually gave him a shot. His year’s holiday allowance had been used up on trips to Scarborough and other glamorous destinations for second XI fixtures. His employer, goodwill almost exhausted, was beckoning him back to his desk.
Wardlaw arrived at Headingley to plead for his future and, as the potential Scotland cap recalled: “I told them ‘I can’t do it any more. I’ve got rent to pay and I can’t afford any more time off’. So they turned around and gave me an 18-month contract. It was a case of signing there and then. I got offered it on the Monday, I finished work on the Thursday and was a full-time cricketer on the Friday. That was it.”
Less than two years on and, with a new deal at Yorkshire secured, Wardlaw is set to fulfil another ambition today when he makes his competitive debut for Scotland in a Twenty20 international against Afghanistan in Sharjah, the first of four games between the sides in the Gulf this week.
He is one of five potential new caps in the Saltires ranks, a beneficiary of new ICC eligibility rules which allow the national side to profit from the same qualification by parentage afforded to England and others. Yet Wardlaw, pictured, is not, he hopes, a mere carpetbagger.
Early in his career, he approached former captain Gavin Hamilton – then a regular adversary in the Bradford League – to assess his chances of a call-up. And, once the door was opened, he was happy to walk through despite an accent which is straight out of Emmerdale.
His Glasgow-born father was euphoric when the summons came. “He was on the verge of tears,” said Wardlaw. “He couldn’t believe it. He was absolutely over the moon. They looked at coming out to Sharjah but it was a bit too expensive so I need to make sure I’m in the side when we next play back home.”
On Wednesday and Friday, Scotland take on Afghanistan in two one-day internationals, part of the World Cricket League series which is now a central component in qualification for the 2015 World Cup. Gordon Drummond’s men are second in the standings, behind the Afghans. A top-two spot at the end would earn Scotland a ticket to Australia and New Zealand and Wardlaw is, unsurprisingly, enticed.
He said: “Scotland’s ambitions are high, which dovetails with my own ambitions. If we can qualify for the World Cup, playing against the best teams in the world, I think we can compete. You never know what can happen.”