Sandy Strang: Oliver's arrival at top table can fuel progress

IT'S big business now. Less than a decade ago Cricket Scotland was a minor cottage industry - employees six; annual turnover under half a million pounds. Not any more.

Today the annual turnover has quadrupled to 1.8 million, and there are 30 staff.

The man at the helm pushing through this remarkable transformation has been Cricket Scotland chief executive and partner in the capital's legal firm HBJ Gateley Waring, that affably shrewd Fettesian Keith Oliver. So it's no surprise that Oliver's administrative capacities have not gone unnoticed in cricket's higher echelons. A former chairman of Lord's Taverners in Scotland, MCC member Oliver has just been elected as one of only three representatives of the 94 associate and affiliate members of the International Cricket Council. Scotland thus now has a coveted seat at cricket's high table, which includes all ten full member chairmen of the Test-playing countries.

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Oliver, whose father and grandfather both played for Hawick and Wilton, has deservedly won much support for his successful championing of the cause of community and recreational cricket - an estimated 12,000 players now compete in organised cricket activity in Scotland every week - alongside the growing demands of the elite international game. He founded the Cricket Scotland development trust aimed at ensuring the clubs, the lifeblood of the sport, feel properly represented. His direct working knowledge of Scotland's recent rugby history and the alienating damage caused by a radical split between club and country interests has served him well these past eight years.

One of four brothers - all wittingly named after Test cricketers! - Oliver's diplomacy, directness, and hard-wrought reputation for unimpeachable integrity have also been instrumental in cementing crucial sponsor relations, and - just as vital - continued participation in various ECB competitions. He helped broker the first ever international fixture between Scotland and England, and that visionary Prince's Trust charity game, sadly rain-ruined, between India and Pakistan at Titwood.

"Keith's experience and skills as a leading administrator will be a great asset to the ICC," says Cricket Scotland chief executive Roddy Smith. He might well have added that Oliver's presence in the big league will be an immense asset to Scotland too. As any insider will readily avouch, Scotland's place in cricket's scheme of things has lost some ground of late - not least to neighbours Ireland - both on the field and in the corridors of power. There's a pressing political need to reassert ourselves - particularly to push our desire to host more ODIs against the elite Test-playing countries rather than merely being patronised by the odd piece of tourist tokenism. There's rightly much renewed hope our emerging young players can deliver on the pitch.

Minnows have cup semi-final glory in sights

ONE of the best weekends in his cricketing life, enthused Stoneywood-Dyce skipper George Ninan following his side's recent comfortable five-wicket Scottish Cup win over Division 2 pace-setters Dumfries.

It's easy to see why Ninan is so excited. His unfashionable People's Park club, founded just 20 years ago with the amalgamation of Stoneywood, formed in 1852, and nearby Dyce CC, are now unequivocally in the big-time.

The wee Aberdeenshire outfit, operating on a small grassy plateau at the south-west tip of the runway at Aberdeen Airport, where planes fly close overhead and the evocative clunk of willow on leather is persistently engulfed by the manic whirring of North Sea helicopters, will contest their first-ever Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday week when they take on fellow First Division side Stirling County, another club similarly heading upwards.

The 1991 Small Clubs Cup winners have a very real chance of progressing all the way in the big cup. Niven says: "After a poor 2009 when playing cricket had become a bit of a chore, and an inauspicious start to 2010 when we lost our first three league games, the boys have turned it around with six successive league wins as well as progression to the cup semi. Much of the credit goes down to our coach Jan Stander, whose positive philosophy and training drills have given belief to our entire team."

Note these names - Stander, Willemse, Redhead, Crowley, Coetzer, Leask, Walters, Ninan. My hunch is we're going to hear a lot more about them in these exciting weeks ahead.

Berrington has county class

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Richie Berrington continues to enjoy an awesome summer with the bat. Since 15 May for Scotland XIs - including the Lions against Leicestershire Seconds and the World League Afghan warm-up - the Pretorian-born former Greenock Academy schoolboy has racked up a mammoth 666 runs at an average of 42.

Less well documented is that he has also picked up 22 wickets with his deceptively sharp seamers, has been instrumental in no fewer than seven run-outs, and has taken three catches with his athletic fielding. Here we have not just an outstanding batsman, but the complete all-round cricketer. And he's only just turned 23.

Over the years a good few Scottish-reared players have been awarded contracts with English counties. How much longer before a county takes the plunge with young Berrington? He could well turn out to be the best of the lot. No better man either than Oliver to deliver where it matters every bit as much - in the boardroom.

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