‘Cricket is safe - so let’s get the game going again’ - Scottish chief Gus Mackay’s rallying cry
In his 18 months in charge of Scottish cricket Gus Mackay has seen one day’s play. But it’s not for the want of trying.
The national men’s side have been out of action since December 2019, and the sport never really got going in 2020.
But the green shoots of recovery are starting to show. With mass vaccinations and the decline in Covid cases it is hoped cricket in Scotland can re-emerge from its unscheduled hiatus.
Mackay certainly hopes so. The Zimbabwean, who was appointed chief executive of Cricket Scotland in October 2019, is confident the sport can return this season, both internationally and at grassroots level. It may look a little different, but it will return.
“I think the message I want to get out there is that cricket is safe,” said Mackay. “It is a safe game - it is what happens on the periphery that is the issue in terms of logistics.
“Within government circles they’ve been impressed with what we’ve done in terms of our guidance on return to sport.
“So let’s get back on, let’s work within the protocols and the guidelines. Is it essential that the bar’s open and the changing rooms are open? And that there are teas? Probably not. It’s about just getting the game going.”
Not surprisingly, Scottish cricket’s lost year hit the sport hard, both financially and probably in playing numbers too.
Mackay expects Cricket Scotland to be operating at a significant deficit this year and next. Annual accounts for 2020 show an operating loss of around £120,000 as revenue fell, and the situation wasn’t helped by an unexpected demand from the International Cricket Council to Scotland and six other countries for the repayment of monies paid in 2018 and 2019.
The tough year took its toll and the business has been restructured. There were redundancies within the governing body but furlough money has helped and Mackay is now working hard to ensure the domestic game can get going again.
“We’re looking at a return for competitive club cricket from 17 May when travel is permitted,” he said.
“We won’t know the impact of Covid, I believe, until the end of the summer - what a year off for cricket has meant for playing numbers. They’ll be clubs who probably fielded three teams who will now field two because people have dropped out of the sport.”
Three development officers have been employed, initially on six-month contracts, to help get the clubs going again.
Internationally, it’s a big year for the men’s team who are due to play in the T20 World Cup in October. Whether that can go ahead as planned in India remains to be seen.
Two one-day fixtures against the Netherlands in Rotterdam next month have been announced and talks are ongoing to find more opposition.
Mark Coles has been appointed as head coach of the women’s national side, a significant appointment.
“The women’s game is very important to our future success and obviously bringing in Mark Coles as a full-time coach demonstrates our commitment,” said Mackay. “In terms of our bigger ambitions of becoming a Full Member, the women’s results are important to the overall picture.
“We’ve got some challenges but overall I’m confident we can overcome them and just get the game going.”