WHEN, after a difficult winter tour to the Middle East, Calum MacLeod found himself omitted from Scotland’s side for their series with Pakistan at the start of the summer, he knew there was no point in burying in his head in the sand.
Good cricketers stash their bag of tricks within their muscle memory. The 24-year-old had suffered a kind of amnesia. Having worked tirelessly to recalibrate himself as a batsman after his former specialism as a bowler had been derailed by technical faults, this new quandary threatened to cast him adrift. Fortunately, help was at hand to ease him gently back to shore.
MacLeod, in a prior stint as an apprentice at Warwickshire, was already familiar with Michael Powell, a stalwart at the top of the order at Edgbaston for over a decade. Good enough to be captain, and to make it as far as England’s A team, he retired in 2008 and then opted for a career in teaching.
Musselburgh was his destination, taking up the post of cricket master at Loretto School. And so, when his former team-mate was struggling, he was a natural source of reassurance and wise counsel.
“I do a session with him every week over at Loretto,” says MacLeod, who is preparing for two World Cricket League ODIs against Kenya in Aberdeen this week.
“It’s good having one-on-one time with him because he has a lot of knowledge and experience around the game. He’s good to chat to about batting, just to help you clear your mind and see what you need to be doing to score runs.”
Powell, as well as Scotland coach Pete Steindl, wrote out a prescription for MacLeod’s ills. “I spent some time looking at videos of games where I’d done well and noticed the things I wasn’t doing now that I had done then. The construction of my innings was very different so I tried to make things as simple as possible because I’d over-complicated things,” added MacLeod.
The medicine had an immediate effect. Restored against Australia A earlier this month, MacLeod notched a maiden first-class half-century. And, with the Scots opening their series with Kenya at Mannofield today, he even feels emboldened enough to offer his services as a bowler. Once cited for a dodgy action, he gave up despite extensive attempts at Edgbaston to correct his arm movement.
“To be a front-line bowler, I’d have to have more pace again. That’s not something I want to go searching for. If it comes, it will be a bonus. But I’ve changed the way I bowl and there’s no reason I can’t be effective.”
Two games in three days against Kenya will count heavily towards home hopes of reaching the 2015 World Cup. Scotland – yet to win a game this year – are third in the points table, behind Ireland and the Netherlands, with the top two avoiding the qualification tournament.
“We know they’re a dangerous side. They might play some unorthodox cricket at times but it can be very effective. So we need to concentrate on our skills and cope with whatever they come with.”