The current points table in the Intercontinental Cup makes stark reading. Afghanistan and Ireland already all but assured of meeting in a final which, notionally still, offers the incentive of a play-off for Test status for the victor. The rest? Far adrift, the gulf between the haves, the have-hopes and the have-nots now firmly delineated in cricket’s never-more-fluid pecking order.
Of course, the Irish will be likely to get their Test summons this summer unless a political toxin belatedly poisons the ICC’s board. The Afghans, despite the obvious impediment of a lack of domestic infrastructure, will be the next cab off the rank. But if these are prevailing winds of charge, then at some point, a 13th Full Member will be created. And our goal, confirms Scotland coach Grant Bradburn, must be to ensure that his side are at the head of the line when expansion next arrives.
“We deserve more opportunities to play,” says the New Zealander, fortified by his side’s recent landmark defeat of Sri Lanka. “We fully respect that Afghanistan and Ireland have earned their right to go to another level with their performances at global events. But we’re also incredibly honest in that we feel that we’re certainly not so far away from those teams who are getting significantly more funding and significantly more games against Test nations. So our message to the ICC is don’t forget about the next crop of Associate Members who are chomping at the bit to be next.”
The cause would be helped, naturally, if the I-Cup standings had the Scots in third place, an achievable target should they pick up maximum points in this week’s meeting with Namibia in Ayr that is scheduled to start on Tuesday. The hosts’ challenge for supremacy has been fatally hindered by a series of delays and abandonments – 11 out of 16 days washed out, Bradburn interjects ruefully – that has left them as the only entrant without a victory so far.
Let’s hope the weather gods look favourably upon us, he adds. Yet there has been an intervention of sorts with the return of ex-captain Preston Mommsen to the fold, six months after he abruptly retired, citing a lack of opportunity and a wish to build an alternative career.
In dazzling scoring form for Edinburgh side Grange, the 29-year’s comeback has been a while in the offing, Bradburn reveals. “We’ve stayed in close communication and when it became clear his job was going well enough to step away and make himself available, the conversation then turned to what he needed to do to prepare. So we’ve made sure he’s prepared, physically and cricket-wise, because he’s coming out of club cricket. So we’ve given him individual training over the past six weeks to make sure he’s ready.”
A popular figure within the squad, it is unlikely his immediate recall has been met within anything but glee. And Mommsen has likewise cleared his diary for next week’s two-game series against Zimbabwe when it is possible Somerset’s Josh Davey and Durham’s Gavin Main may also be available.
That will be a priceless opportunity. Meetings with a Test opponent where ODI points are at stake, unlike the Sri Lanka encounters, which were effectively off the books. And how useful it would be to extend the present momentum by knocking off the Namibians in enough style in four days or less to trail only the two big fish in the minnows pond with just one game, November’s trip to Papua New Guinea, remaining.
“We’re clear in what we’re trying to achieve,” Bradburn affirms. “We want to be known as the leading Associate nation. And for that you need to be dominating.”