Scotland’s cricketers return with the T20 World Cup in their sightlines
It wasn’t quite clear blue skies and sunshine but at least the rain stayed off as Scotland’s cricketers geared up for the new season with a nets session on the lush green fields of Goldenacre yesterday.
Having not played a match since December 2019 there was a little rust to shake off as they were put through their paces by national coach Shane Burger.
A whole season was lost to the pandemic, so there’s an eagerness to get going again and the first signs of a return to normality came with the twin announcement of the first fixtures of 2021 and the confirmation that 13 players have been signed up on full-time contracts.
Scotland will take on the Netherlands in two one-day internationals in Rotterdam on May 19 and 21, the first steps on the road to the ICC T20 World Cup in India in October.
Between now and then, Burger hopes to squeeze in as many matches as possible to give his side the best possible chance of making an impact in such an important tournament.
Circumstances mean planning is tricky. Scotland were due to host both Australia and New Zealand last summer but the fixtures fell by the wayside along with the rest of the campaign.
Burger and Cricket Scotland chief executive Gus Mackay have not given up hope of bringing another marquee side to Edinburgh and the feelers are out.
“We don’t have a clear picture, I don’t think anyone does, but what we do have is plan A, plan B and plan C,” explained Burger, the South African who replaced Grant Bradburn as head coach in 2019.
“We want as much cricket as we can get, we want as much high level cricket as we can get, so we want to play against full members and we are in constant communication about getting those kinds of games on.”
Scotland’s ultimate goal remains securing full-member status for themselves, which would allow them to play Test matches, and the best way to do that is keep playing - and trying to beat - the elite sides.
“We had Australia and New Zealand coming here last summer before the pandemic and it would actually have been good to see how we would have gone against them,” added Burger.
“The great thing is that the group were excited about playing them - they are not scared, whether it is Australia, England or whoever. We want to keep our performances levels as high as we can.”
After a period on furlough, the squad returned to training at the start of April and the 12 existing full-time team members have had their contracts renewed for another year. All-rounder Tom Sole also joins the group on a six-month deal.
While the T20 World Cup will be the pinnacle of the season, Burger is looking further ahead.
“There is another T20 World Cup next year and then a 50-over World Cup in 2023 to qualify for,” he said.
“I don’t think a Scottish cricketer in the past has ever had the chance to go to three World Cups in three years and that is certainly something we have focused on, it is in our hands and we have to prepare as best we can to give these players that chance to get there.”