THE heart-warming renaissance of Calum MacLeod as a cricketer will be complete in April when he joins Durham, the current county champions, on a temporary contract.
MacLeod has taken Scotland back from the brink of World Cup elimination with two consecutive centuries at the qualifiers in New Zealand, but The Scotsman has learned that even before the tournament began he had been signed up by Durham. When contacted yesterday Paul Collingwood, the Durham stalwart who is currently in joint charge of Scotland, described his skill levels as “incredible”.
MacLeod’s county career was presumed by many to be over when he was released by Warwickshire in 2010, a year after his bowling action had been reported as suspect by umpires during Scotland’s Intercontinental Cup match against Canada in Aberdeen. The 25-year-old has gradually remodelled his action and is still an occasional bowler, but he has worked on his batting to the point where he is now winning matches for Scotland almost single-handedly, as he did with his record 175 against Canada during the week.
He will link up with Durham for the month of April, coach John Lewis confirmed yesterday, before rejoining Scotland to prepare for the 9 May clash with England in Aberdeen. Durham are open to the possibility of him joining them on a longer-term basis after that.
“From the very start, when I first saw him at the Twenty20 qualifiers, I knew he had a skill level that was incredible,” said Collingwood, who first took up work with Scotland as assistant coach in November. “I was throwing a lot of balls at him in practice and the skill, and power, that he has when he hits the ball is really amazing.
“With a lot of the guys in this squad, the raw talent that they have is immense. It’s just a matter of trying to raise themselves to play under pressure situations, and show what they can do out in the middle.
“The good thing about Calum MacLeod is that he is a really driven and motivated character, who is willing to work on his game and his fitness levels. So when he gets in, he usually makes a good score.”
When MacLeod was first identified as a bowler who appeared to be throwing, Warwickshire coaches Allan Donald and Dougie Brown took it upon themselves to rehabilitate him, but it didn’t happen quickly enough for his burgeoning professional career to continue.
Asked about his revival in the last three years, Collingwood said: “One of the amazing things is that when things happen, they sometimes happen for a reason. It might be almost a blessing in disguise that he had to go back and reform his game, because it gave him a new direction.
“He knows he had to reform his game and go down the batting route. He had the character to keep fighting and working things out for himself.”
Thanks to MacLeod and Matt Machan, who had matched the opener run for run this winter until MacLeod’s extraordinary knock against Canada, Scotland head into their Super Six opener against Namibia in Lincoln (overnight tonight) with a spring in their step.
Two wins out of three might be enough to claim one of the two berths at the 2015 World Cup still on offer.
“The confidence levels are really high,” said Collingwood. “The mental side of the game is crucial and you want to give yourself the best chance in a pressure situation by going into games as relaxed as possible. That’s when you play best cricket and the environment the boys have created in that dressing room is special. We want to go the extra yard and make this a really special tour to remember.”