HAVING only previously visited Scotland once, on a detour during a playing career largely divided between his native New Zealand and the doughty leagues of northern England, Grant Bradburn concedes he has taken a leap of faith by uprooting his family and decamping halfway around the planet to become the Saltires’ new head coach.
The potential returns, the 47-year-old senses, far outstrip any risk. “From a domestic point of view, it’s a magic opportunity for my kids to try something new,” he declares. “But also to put them in an unfamiliar environment where they’re challenged to grow their experiences too.”
If the expansionist philosophy espoused for his two sons and one daughter is extended to the squad whose acquaintance he will make this week, then the country’s players can expect to be gently ushered outside their comfort zone. Following his recent appointment, the Kiwi will arrive tomorrow for a fleeting visit which will take in Friday’s one-day international against England in Aberdeen before formally assuming the role in July.
As a spinner, he was good enough to play seven Tests and 11 ODIs for the Black Caps but it is as a coach that he has earned more promising reviews. Succeeding Andy Moles, once of Scotland, at the helm of Northern Districts in 2008, he led what has traditionally been an unfashionable province to four titles in five years. Significantly, nine of their number have progressed to the international stage.
“His track record of success and for producing players is outstanding,” said Cricket Scotland’s performance director Andy Tennant, who oversaw the recruitment process.
Bradburn, whose father Wynne was also a Test cap, had been accelerated on his upward trajectory when given oversight of New Zealand’s A and Under-19 teams last year but he felt broader exposure might prove beneficial. With Scotland qualifying for next spring’s World Cup, it was a case of right job, right time, when he was alerted to the vacancy.
Discussions began, emails were traded. He said: “I immediately got a good feeling about the organisation, that they weren’t looking to sit back and bask in making the World Cup but that they really had some goals to build on that. And one day, they’d love to be playing Test cricket and breaking into the top ten. That’s a big bridge to cross, obviously, but it’s the type of challenge which invigorated me and I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved.”
Bradburn is fortunate to inherit a group seemingly on the rise. Pete Steindl, his predecessor, oversaw an awkward transitional period in which a new crop of English-raised recruits dropped into the national set-up, the injection of talent negated by the implosion in chemistry. Collective confidence was at a premium when the Australian, a victim partially of circumstance, was dismissed following a failure to qualify for the Twenty20 World Cup. Yet the newcomer will encounter a group whose self-worth was rebuilt under the inter-regnum of Paul Collingwood and Craig Wright as a 50-over World Cup berth was secured.
Wright has been retained, accepting a caretaker role in the early summer before becoming the No.2 and de facto bowling coach. Toby Bailey will remain as performance analyst and fielding coach, while Mike Powell, the one-time Warwickshire batsman, will continue to act as a batting tutor, even though Bradburn will be allowed to utilise his contacts to secure dedicated support in that sphere, when required.
Within the new structure, a succession plan has been embedded. Wright, the former Saltires captain is, effectively, the designated heir. “We certainly see Craig as a future Scotland coach,” Tennant added. And, while he wasn’t appointed this time, being assistant could be seen as a part of his development.”
Under the new coach, he will complete that apprenticeship. Bradburn is known as both a motivator and a detailed planner, demanding yet convivial. He has a clear philosophy and a firm idea of what he aims to generate.
“We will be a team that’s always looking to get better,” he said, “that is an outstanding fielding unit, that plays an exciting brand of cricket. A team that inspires, that has goals. Clearly, there are good systems in place so, for me, it’s a matter of taking some time to see what’s there, respect what’s in place and then build on that.”
England, with Peter Moores also making a second debut as coach, will offer Bradburn some useful initial insights. The injured Richie Berrington apart, Scotland will be at full strength at Mannofield with Kyle Coetzer fit again to serve as skipper in his home city and Josh Davey recalled following his off-season switch to Somerset. First impressions, Bradburn hopes, will be positive.
“It’s a daunting challenge, obviously,” he said. “Scotland have only played England twice before. They’ve never beaten a top-tier nation. So it’s a huge challenge. But it’s a great opportunity for me to walk into that kind of situation. And I’m looking forward to getting over there and meeting the players, meeting the staff. I’ve had a little interaction with the staff already but it’s impressed me what’s in place and the general vibe from them. And the occasion in Aberdeen will be fantastic. What better opportunity than to knock over England? It would make a great story and there’s no better time than the present.”
Let the adventure begin.