SCOTLAND captain Kyle Coetzer uses an example from early in his county career to demonstrate the change in his cricketing philosophy. Desperate to impress with Durham, he suffered an ignominious dismissal to a routine seam delivery as he tried to go “crash, bang, wallop” rather than flicking the ball precisely for four, as he would now.
“That’s what happens when you don’t know how to play the game. I look back and think what an idiot I was,” said Coetzer.
With his 30th birthday around the corner and the new responsibility of a ten-week-old baby, the Aberdonian is wearing the burden of his maturity well. On the eve of his first major tournament as skipper, he has profited from stability at home and at work. In the past 12 months at Northamptonshire, his contribution has been consistently valued without fear of demotion. There were times at Durham when he made a mark and helped to deliver trophies, setting himself out as a run scorer of repute. Yet he was always looking over his shoulder, rather than ahead.
Coetzer added: “For me, it’s worked out well to be playing first-team cricket regularly.” And, as the Scots prepare for their bid to reach next year’s World Twenty20, his ambitions are greater than ever.
When Ryan Watson resigned as skipper in 2009, an informal canvassing of the players over who might be the ideal successor saw Coetzer head the poll. His quiet tactical assurance had not gone unnoticed.
Circumstances, however, meant he would have to wait his turn and that gave him time to formulate his own philosophy. It was shared with the team on a warm-up tour to Sri Lanka and is one which he hopes will pay dividends in the United Arab Emirates, where Scotland open the group stages of the qualifying tournament against Bermuda on Friday.
“I envisage being very positive and not sitting back,” he said. “Often you can turn up to a game and be in awe of who is on the other side. I don’t want us to be like that at all, not any more, not one little bit. It has to be us turning up and the opposition looking at us that way. There has to be a sense of arrogance. You need that. You have to believe in yourself. Sometimes you don’t have enough of that and when you walk out on the field, there’s uncertainty. I want us to be confident no matter who we come up against, to have that arrogance.”
Last summer was a write-off for Scotland. Heads were lowered and confidence shredded.
Needlessly, insists Coetzer. The current side contains nine players with county experience, including former Warwickshire veteran Neil Carter.
With six places at the showpiece tournament in Bangladesh next spring up for grabs in the qualifying event for International Cricket Council Associate nations, not even an initial group that includes Afghanistan and the Netherlands should intimidate the Saltires.
“If you line [the squad] up against any of the top Associates, we’re there or thereabouts,” said Coetzer.
“It’s about everyone understanding their roles and how they go about contributing to the side. Then trying to do that every day.”
Results over the next three weeks will count for a lot. They will influence Cricket Scotland’s funding from the ICC and SportScotland. Additionally, generating momentum is vital with the qualifiers for the 2015 50-over World Cup in the New Year.
Missing out on the last edition was a setback. To miss out on either the 20 or 50-over versions, or both, this time would be calamitous.
“There is an element of pressure there,” added Coetzer. “We need to take the focus away from those other factors and put it on our game. If we perform, the funding, the off-field stuff will take care of itself.”