SCOTTISH cricket was given a major boost last night when South African all-rounder Neil Carter was cleared to play for the Saltires.
The former Warwickshire star is one of six players who qualify under the ICC’s new parentage rule. Four – Matt Machan, Richard Coughtrie, David Murphy and Rob Taylor – have already taken part in a Scotland A tour. However, last October’s trip to South Africa was given unofficial status while Cricket Scotland awaited clearance under the ICC’s “exceptional circumstances” guidelines.
Now the game’s ruling body has given the green light to Carter and Yorkshire’s Ian Wardlaw to join the other quartet as adopted Scots. All six could come into contention to face Afghanistan in two crucial World Cup qualifying matches in March.
Cricket Scotland’s head of performance Andy Tennant said: “This confirmation goes some way to levelling the playing field in terms of eligibility. To this point Scotland has been at a disadvantage as the nations we compete against generally have the ability to grant nationality by issuing ancestral passports.
“That is something Scotland is not able to do and, as a result, players who have a right to deem themselves Scottish through parentage have missed out on the opportunity to play for their country.”
With 309 wickets and almost 3,000 runs in First Class cricket, Carter has the most impressive pedigree of the new recruits but, at 38, his value to the Saltires will be short-term.
At the same time, Tennant reaffirmed Scotland’s commitment to producing home-grown talent. “We will continue to improve our development progammes to ensure talented players raised in Scotland have the best chance to fulfil their potential,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alastair Cook has told his England side they can book their Champions Trophy places if they shine in India this month.
England’s 50-over squad begin their five-match one-day series in Rajkot this morning looking to win in India for only the second time. Their last two attempts, in 2011 and 2008, ended in 5-0 defeats and successive warm-up defeats to India A and Delhi suggest the current crop will find life just as hard.
The absence of established stars such as the rested Jonathan Trott , Graeme Swann and James Anderson and the injured Stuart Broad, who is likely to be available for the last two fixtures only, is a major blow to England’s hopes but Cook sees a positive.
Several of the current squad party are not first-choice picks but the captain has told them a place at the Champions Trophy, to be held in England this June, could still be on offer.
“I don’t know how many places are up for grabs but I’d say a lot of them are,” said Cook on the eve of the match. “I think there is a chance if people perform well and they’ve got the shirt at the moment. That’s what you want, you want competition and people pushing hard to put the people who are in the team now out. Performances from people on this tour, if they perform really well, will mean it’s really hard to leave out a player.
“It will be a good test of us as players, and especially those players who’ve been around now a little on the international scene, to try to step up and move into levels when they are producing match-winning performances.”
While Cook is hopeful of some big performances from his team-mates there is no sense of complacency. England may go into the series ranked as the world’s No 1 ODI side but their on-field leader is content to accept the odds are against an away win. That was also the case in the Test series, which England turned around in dramatic fashion after losing the opener to win 2-1. “It’s tough to win out here and that is the challenge we have got on our hands,” he said. “It’s going to be a hell of a challenge, a bit like the Test series in one way. Clearly we are the underdogs but, if you look through our side, we have got a lot of firepower and a lot of world-class players. For us to win the series those world-class players and everyone in our squad is going to have to play out of our skin.”
Today’s match is the first under new limited-overs coach Ashley Giles, who was appointed at the back end of last year to ease the workload on team director Andy Flower.