In 2005, Scotland were cricket’s “best of the rest”. Now, as the World Twenty20 starts on Tuesday in India, there are few grounds for optimism, not with the dice already loaded against Grant Bradburn’s men.
Three games in five days in Nagpur against Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong might be officially tagged the first round of the showpiece, but the reality is that it is only an aperitif to the main event. Just the group winners will advance to the Super 10 stage where the A-List await.
Yet, while the Saltires may bemoan the belittling of the Associate nations by the ICC’s ruling cabal, their results have done little to persuade that they deserve better.
Finishing top of the group to reach the tournament proper would mark a huge achievement for the Scots, as captain Preston Mommsen admits.
He said: “To get through now, this would be the most monumental achievement since I’ve been involved. And we have got an opportunity to do that.
“The exposure we got from the 50-over World Cup last year made sure more people in Scotland were talking about cricket.
“The Cricket Scotland brand was starting to come out, which is what we want. And that’s how you grow it – being on TV, featuring on tournaments. There’s huge pressure to get through but we can’t think about what it means, not just for us as players but the benefits for the whole organisation.”
Having turned down an offer to ply his trade in England this summer, there can be no doubting the batsman’s commitment to the cause. Raised in South Africa but an active convert to Caledonia since arriving in his teens, Mommsen knows how vital it is to make waves and stir passions abut the Scottish game.
A review (of sorts) will be undertaken into the monopolistic practices instilled by England, Australia and, above all, India, that would suck the cash and the lifeblood from nations with aspirations of progressing.
But, as it stands, it is unlikely Scotland will remain a full-time team for much longer. With few fixtures of note, failure this week could see the side, and its players, slip quietly off the map. “Being a professional sportsman on a one-year contract, there is uncertainty,” added Mommsen. “All we can do is take it year by year. You can’t look too far ahead.”
After today’s final warm-up against the Netherlands, the next thing on the horizon is a match against perennial and obstinate foes Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Scotland also face Zimbabwe, who have Test ranking and Hong Kong, who surprised the Scots during a recent tour to the former colony.
Mommsen added: “We have to earn the right to win games.”
Losing to Oman in a warm-up game on Friday reinforced that. Bradburn encourages his charges to play with freedom, without fear of failure, but the margins for error then become invisibly thin. “We won’t go away from that style of cricket,” said Mommsen. “We’ll encourage it. But we also have to be aware of the scoreboard and the conditions and adapt to them.”
In 18 games at World Cups, both 20 and 50 overs, Scotland have never secured a victory.
“Just the thought of getting through that first round, how big that would be and what that would mean to me, to the squad and to the cricketing nation, it would be massive,” added Mommsen. “There is so much to play for.”