Sandy Strang: Festival just clouds vision for Twenty20

ESCHEW the euphemisms, by any reckoning it was a resoundingly humiliating failure. For once the curtailing rains were a mitigating blessing.

The much-vaunted T20 Festival imploded even before it had begun. Enthusiasm for a national celebratory day of the telescoped format, seemingly so ardent when the concept was first mooted, suddenly dissipated in the days immediately leading up to its inception. Withdrawals and semi-withdrawals came thick and fast. West Lothian, RH Corstorphine and Ferguslie all pulled out at the eleventh hour. The Edinburgh Premiership sides Carlton, Grange and Watsonians condensed their resources into one hybrid, makeshift Edinburgh Select which lost to hosts Heriot's at Goldenacre. It was, in short, a sorry shambles.

Retrospective rationalisations have been plentiful. Heriot's skipper Steve Knox articulated arguably the most valid objection: "The context of a one-off festival with no apparent bigger picture appears baffling. If this T20 had been part of an ongoing series, like the indoor tournament on winter Friday evenings at the National Academy, I could more easily have understood." Grange captain Sanjay Patel added: "There doesn't seem any point to it."

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"The lack of importance attached to the event," said Carlton coach Steve Gilmour, "is borne out by a message from Cricket Scotland that we were not required to notify any results."

Two weeks ago I innocently asked Keith Young of T20 Festival sponsors Murgitroyd what would happen thereafter to the various derby winners from the Festival Day's play. His answer was all too brief. Nothing.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. There simply isn't the appetite to add what is essentially a meaningless, non-competitive round of T20 games to an already crowded calendar.

Another excuse was proffered by RH Corstorphine President Arnie Sathiy: "A number of our first-team squad took advantage of what they saw as a free Saturday in the league to make family and holiday plans. We didn't wish to take players away from our twos and threes who have important East League games for what are really just friendly T20 matches." Carlton's Gilmour echoes this view: "We made a club decision not to weaken our lower teams, not least our threes aiming for back-to-back promotions."

The very wet summer hasn't helped either, with existing T20 competitions, like the West League Cup, the Masterton Trophy, and the Rowan Cup all now running behind schedule. The former two competitions lead into a national T20 Finals Day anyway.

Cricket Scotland CEO Roddy Smith bullishly attempts to put a positive slant on the debacle: "We need more T20, and it was time to try something different. Our national side will be playing more such games with the possibility of qualifying for two T20 World Cups in the next for years.Top players can't get enough experience of differing conditions." To be fair, Roddy, the new Regional T20, currently dominated by the Caledonian Highlanders is delivering promisingly. The problem arises further down the club spectrum.

Ironically, from the matches which did proceed in defiance of indifference and weather, the players who made the greatest impacts were not even Scottish-qualified. Greenock's newly-arrived Kiwi Test pro Tim McIntosh hoisted five huge sixes in an over at New Cambusdoon, whilst Stenny's South African hired hand Rushdi Jappie plundered a whirlwind 98 from a toiling Stirling attack at McKane Park.

So whither now? The doubters have had a field day. One could consign the entire ill-fated experiment to the bin. Or, taking a more enlightened approach, if one accepts in principle, as many do, that T20 is an increasingly important part of the game, then incorporating a T20 component into the SNCL competition could be a way forward. Australian club cricket already boasts several models embracing different formats all counting towards a single league title.

Suggestions on a postcard. . .