Sandy Strang: More questions than answers behind wicket

IT seemed a simple, straightforward succession plan. Colin "Floppy" Smith, peerless Saltires keeper, hangs up his gloves after ten years, 181 matches and 261 dismissals. His earmarked successor, Simon "Smudger" Smith, a key component in the powerful Grange dynasty dominating SNCL cricket, and the generally acknowledged understudy, already capped at Under 16, 19, and 23 levels before graduating to full cap status against Sussex in 2004 and a further 27 caps, takes over.

But it didn't happen. Blame the Gilchrist syndrome. The curse of the new template. The electrifying batter-keeper. "Just hit the ball" was how the legendary Gilly once defined his batting philosophy. On the back of his astonishing achievements - more than 5,000 Test and nearly 10,000 ODI runs all at a blistering tempo, 81 per hundred balls in Tests, 96 in one-dayers - selectors worldwide grew instantly greedy. Your keeper had to bat and bat fast. Simon Smith's meagre return of 116 runs in his last 11 Scottish innings was deemed an unacceptably poor return.

The beleaguered Smith has since crossed the Capital to Heriot's, partly in an endeavour to acquire more club batting time higher up the order. He has not worn a Scotland shirt in 2011.

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Meanwhile, other younger pretenders to the "Floppy" throne have mysteriously stalled. Marc Petrie, now promoted to open the innings at Arbroath, made a lively start with seven caps in two years, but has been unable to amass the weight of club or representative runs to cement an international slot. Vibrant ex-Clydesdale keeper-bat Andy Hislop has lost his way too, at least for the time being. Eighteen appearances at Scotland 'A' and Lions levels augured well for full international recognition, but following a move to Greenock his career has stuttered to the extent of being deployed lately at Glenpark as an auxiliary off-spinner whilst another emergent young talent, Alex Baum, commandeers the gloves.

So if you can't get a batter-keeper to your precise liking, what do you do? Back in Saltireland you create one. Cue the likeable, multi-faceted Gregor Maiden. Cricketing work in progress.

The gifted former off-spinner, once cruelly denied a county contract at Lancashire by a freak knee injury, is currently being reincarnated, much to the declared delight of national coach Pete Steindl: "It's not easy to reinvent yourself at Gregor's age (he's 31] but he's a very talented player who's working extremely hard at his keeping and enjoying the challenge."

He scored 36 runs in his first six outings as a keeper-opener, which was a deeply disappointing start, but a move down the order - a major revision of the initial plan - has produced more fruitful returns in the last two outings against Durham, which marked his 100th cap, and again at Northamptonshire on Sunday.Then, just when you imagine the glove situation cannot become any more complicated, it does. Enter another contender. Clydesdale's Omer Hussain, jettisoned by Scotland as a specialist batter, intimates his desire to compete in the keeper-batter stakes. Indeed, back on 8 May at Goldenacre in the much-vaunted Regional Series, we had the absurd scenario of Hussain keeping wicket for the Western Warriors against the Eastern Knights and claiming a stumping - off the bowling of Maiden! The former Ferguslie star, whose fine catching hands earned him the moniker "Buckets" from his Meikleriggs colleagues, is a naturally talented stumper and he's still only 26. If he continues to work on his all-round fitness, Hussain may well eventually transpire as the best option.