Batting ace could have chosen golf, but prefers the fun of playing in a team, he tells Mark Woods
On some days, George Munsey requires the ball to soar more than 70 yards to traverse the boundary rope by virtue of an old-fashioned clubbing with the bat. On others, just a forceful chip with a sand wedge is enough. Cricket and golf, as Munsey well knows, have many traits and challenges in common.
‘We have a group. It makes it a lot easier to turn up to training on cold days, much more than golf was’
The value of an expansive set of strokes and an innate ability to pick out the gaps, for example. The need to focus on every shot, in case it slices fatally array. And the maddening propensity of the sporting gods to randomly transform even the greats into mere mortals without prior warning or a hint of compassion.
Six years ago, the Scotland batsman – now 22 – was ready to throw himself at the mercy of the deities and hope they would allow him to make a career out of sport, but at golf rather than cricket. “I was always going to be a professional golfer until 16,” he says.
His ability landed him a place in the academy of Loretto School, just a decent tee shot away from Musselburgh Links in East Lothian which vigorously asserts its claim on being the oldest course in the world.
Munsey was playing off scratch. Ambitions were high. But a summer of wintering on the pitches of Australia shifted his horizons. “I decided cricket was the way forward,” he says. “What swung it is I prefer team sport. We’re lucky in Scotland that we have a good bunch of lads at the moment and it makes it so much fun.
“When you’re training hard as a golfer, it’s just you and your coach and it can be very lonely. It’s hard to keep motivated every day. But with Scotland, we have a group of young guys. There’s nine of us under 26 and we’ve all come through the juniors. It makes it a lot easier to turn up to training on cold days, much more than golf was.”
However, we speak after he has just completed 18 holes. No handicap these days, he rues. No time. Club duties with Grange. A coaching gig back at Loretto. And a flurry of 20-over outings with Scotland, initially with a three-match series with Ireland at Bready that starts on Thursday.
It will serve as a tune-up for next month’s World Twenty20 qualifiers, which will be hosted jointly by Scotland and Ireland.
And with selectors following through on their pledge to employ specialists in T20, Munsey’s ability to gun and run is likely to earn him the chance to top the order, even with the belated call-up for Kyle Coetzer following his original and untidy omission.
“Making my debut against New Zealand A last year showed me what was required and then I went away and worked on it so I’d be ready for this year,” says Munsey. “It’s gone pretty smoothly. The qualifiers will be another big step but I feel prepared.
“I’ve got some unique shots and I hit the ball into different places which is ideal for T20, especially as an opener in this, or even the one-dayers. This is probably the format that comes more naturally. I’m almost more trying to prove my case for the longer format at the moment.”
Munsey hopes his four-day game CV was enhanced during a recent trial at Nottinghamshire where he pulled out one knock of 170 and made a positive first impression. Officials have asked him back for a second look. Yet the depth of talent already at Trent Bridge means his bid to secure a contract first and then a regular place will be no simple task.
Having dedicated additional time to increase his value by upgrading his bowling, Munsey will take aim ambitiously and go – as the golfer in him would say – straight at the flag. “I’m trying to score as many runs as I can up here to get myself into some professional role, either for Scotland or a county, so I can play full-time,” he says.
“I’m always happy to do some coaching here and there. I love working with the juniors. I’ve been a groundsman as well and I enjoyed that, just being around cricket. But it would be nice to make a living from it.”