Scotland’s Days of Redemption
Scotland's Days of Redemption
“To be honest, I don’t know if I am over it. Not reaching the World Cup saw Cricket Scotland miss out on around $700,000 (£525,000) too, which would have been huge for the sport, especially the grassroots.”
Scotland skipper, Kyle Coetzer's words ring through your ears. With one tournament to decide if they would play the World Cup or not, Scotland knew their only chance was to put it all out there on the ground. That they did. In the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in March, Scotland raced through to the Super Six stage with zero losses in the group games. A loss to Ireland meant their World Cup hopes rested on one game - against the Windies. The game that Coetzer talks of not getting over.
How would he? How would any Scottish player get over it? To fight and lose is one thing. To fight but lose without a chance at keep fighting is heart-breaking. On that fateful day at Harare on March 21, Scotland were 125/5 chasing 198 for a win against Windies.
The dark clouds looming sent a bleak picture but surely the importance of the tournament warranted an additional day. The ICC hadn't budged, much like how they chose to remain mute to concerns over reducing the World Cup to 10 teams.
It rained. It poured cats and dogs. Scotland are familiar with the rains. It rains half of the days in a year in Edinburgh. But that day, they hated it. That day, they were five runs behind on the Duckworth-Lewis scale. It kept raining and they lost. Lost without getting a chance to put up a fight.
A few overs earlier, Richie Berrington, their current team vice-captain was adjudged LBW by the on-field umpire. With no DRS, Scotland had no way to overturn the umpire's dreadful call. They surrendered, meekly. They had no means to protest. Like birds with wings cut off, they took to Twitter and social media to vent their feelings. Nothing, nothing at all would budge the ICC who were there to promote the game to more countries, make it more global.
“People make mistakes – players, umpires, anyone – but to not have the review system in a competition of that importance was … well … it just has to be there in future,” Coetzer says days before Scotland's match against England at Edinburgh.
No, they weren't hosting England for a whole series. England’s sole aim was to warm themselves up for Australia with a one-off ODI against Scotland. Warm up they did. Blasted to all corners of Edinburgh, Scotland poured in on England and sneaked in a six run win, their first against England.
The minnows now play Pakistan in two T20Is and then play a triangular series involving Netherlands and Ireland, all in the next ten days.
That is all the International cricket they would get this year. These handful of days are all Scotland have to play International cricket which somebody watches. The foes whom they lambasted, England, play 24 ODIs until the World Cup next year. Scotland have played a total of 26 ODIs since the 2015 World Cup.
“We’ve got, currently, three fixtures for the whole of next summer: a game against England and two Twenty20s against Pakistan. That’s it at the moment. When you’ve got a very quiet schedule, what are you training for? What are you preparing for? As a team we need something to be targeting, and for us that’s the World Cup. Obviously the England and Pakistan games will be special, but they’ll be done in three days. World Cups are where memories are made and what people want to play in,” Coetzer had said during the qualifiers.
His statements make you cringe. When a sportsman trains he does so for an event, to prepare himself for a tournament or represent his country at the highest level. But when all they have to train for is six to seven games in a year, where does the motivation come from?
Which sport in the World hasn't grown in 44 years? Cricket’s inaugural World Cup in 1975 had 8 teams. 2019 will have 10. None of the Associate members will play the World Cup. This, despite them producing some really fine numbers in World Cups. The World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe was among the best tournaments played in a long, long time. Does the ICC care? For a body whose commitment should be aligned to growing the game, ICC have done a ridiculous job in these 44 years. If present conditions are anything to go by, nothing will change. These few days are all Scotland have, but they are unlikely to make any difference to the bigger picture.