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It makes you think.

June 11, 2018

IMGP2206Cricket is a  game which promotes reflection.

The authorities’ attempts to shoehorn it into television schedules with shortened “100 ball” versions completely misses the point about all that makes cricket so special: it is a “long” game – in every sense – and that is its unique selling point.

Yesterday I found myself in one of my favourite reflective positions – on the top of the Grange club’s venerable pavilion.

There is much upon which to reflect – not least the day’s game versus the “auld enemy” and the fifteen years or more  I have been perched up here in every conceivable variation of weather conditions.

Just in front of me are the assembled media. There is Paul Hoffman –  an exciting fast bowler and prodigious hitter of the ball, whom I  loved watching play for Scotland. Then Dougie Brown arrives – who for so long flew the flag for Scottish cricket south of the border. Further along is Jimmy Anderson – who once perched next to me in the members enclosure at Lancashire – 17 years old, the drinks carrier for the first team, and a butt of their jokes – and now the epitome of cricketing success. Next to him a younger man, James Taylor, also with a precocious talent – sadly unfulfilled because of the the discovery of a heart ailment.

Later, David Sole will drop by, interviewed no doubt about his own career as a winning Scottish captain at rugby,  and the national recognition for two sons at cricket and a daughter at netball.

You could easily maintain that all human life is here – or at least, every aspect of cricket  – its highs and lows, its joy and despair: the life-reflecting elements which make it such a great game – a sport that hooks people as children and never leaves them.

So even before something remarkable begins to unfold, I am in reflective mode.

As the openers made their way to the middle I think of all that Kyle Coetzer has done to keep Scotland in the forefront of associate cricket. If it’s a game of reflection, it also needs its inspiration, and the skipper unfailingly provides that in word and deed. I think of all the excitement Matty Cross has provided in his keeping and batting, and as the score mounts, I think of the style of Richie Berrington and the reliability of George Munsey, and the times they have rescued Scotland or pulled us to victory. And I sit there, like all at the ground, transfixed by the mastery of Calum MacLeod, and the joy of seeing  a Gaidhlig speaker powering past his century against England.

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Calum’s career has been a roller coaster and he deserves every moment of success. How his  photographer dad, Donald, covers the team’s performances with no discernible signs of camera shake is beyond me!

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But it is a perfect wicket, reduced boundaries, and against the world No 1s. Even as we pass 350, I keep my confidence well in check. Then Michael Leask arrives for a cameo, and is no sooner at the crease than a trade mark 6 fairly hurtles over the ropes.

And then I start to believe.

I remember Grant Bradburn saying that “holding our own” is not good enough for Scotland, that we need to “look into our opponents’ eyes and show them we believe we can beat them” – and that’s what Leasky did with that six.

More reflection inspired by Jonny Bairstow’s quickfire century: thinking of watching his dad playing, back in the day, a presence I’m sure is never far away from the son. Then – not for the only time on this sunny Sunday – a mixture of emotions. England are powering after the total with all the verve and élan to be expected from the world leaders in this form of the game – is the ‘natural order’ to be emphasised? But a wee answering internal voice tells me that this Scotland squad don’t do surrender, they have the mental strength, the collective approach, to overcome big partnerships, batsmen who appear well set, or statistics which suggest the balance has turned.

The fielding is excellent –reflecting years of drills, fitness and commitment, the bowling refuses to wilt before the English batsmen’s dominance, and the feeling round  the ground is that something could be on here, the lads are playing at top level, there is a belief about them – could we even say a swagger?

Stockbridge, not normally seen as a hotbed of nationalist fervour, echoes to the sound of ‘Flower of Scotland’. The crowd alternate between bated breath and roars of encouragement and appreciation. You can see the team taking strength from the atmosphere – it’s as it should be: players and supporters as one.

Mark Watt is probing intelligently, Ali Evans and Richie Berrington are all energy and invention, Safy Sharif continues on his one man mission to exemplify Coach Bradburn’s philosophy of Kaizen – steady, continuous improvement.

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The England players are looking less certain now – an unnecessary run out sees the back of Root. The run rate is still comfortable, but then two  wickets in two balls – the skipper and Hales are gone – but surely Moeen Ali will produce one of ‘those innings’ and see them home? Then a typical Munsey catch off Watt puts an end to that notion.

Two phrases hover over the ground  in the pauses between overs: “Can we do this?” “Don’t put the mouth on it!” – everyone willing their neighbour not to say anything rash about a Scottish victory! Luckily the players are much more focussed than the crowd!

While I sit on my perch atop the pavilion, chewing my lip, fiddling with my camera, trying not to think of the impossible, they go about their business professionally, as we have come to expect.

When Rashid is run out, a roar escapes from the stands – even the hospitality guests, and the normally impeccably behaved  pavilion patrons, are jumping about like school kids.

Finally, silently,  I channel Barack Obama – YES WE CAN!

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Come on, Safy – you deserve a wicket – you’ve worked so hard over the past few years.

Thump…..pause…..appeal……finger goes up…….oh my goodness!!!!!!

Reflection on hold for a moment, I’m roaring, jumping, shouting, hugging, and punching the air with joy. Here on these seats where I’ve spent so many hours huddled in meteorological and cricketing gloom, the sun is warm, I’m basking in the bright light of victory, and Scotland have beaten England at the Grange! I let that sentence echo round my brain for a few seconds – it’s like the first sip of beer on  a hot day: my, that feels good!

And as the pipes play and the crowd cheer and the players dance a jig of delight, I manage to calm down enough to reflect – of course I do.

I think of these players and their predecessors and all that you have to sacrifice to play cricket for Scotland; I think of their families – the support they’ve given, the pride they must feel, and I think of all the Cricket Scotland folk – the ones I know, the ones I half know, and the ones I vaguely recognise.

I think of Grant Bradburn who refused to be deflated by the many challenges faced by a Scotland coach, and quietly went about making us winners; I think of the backroom staff – all great contributors to the cause in so many ways – former skippers, Gordon Drummond, Preston Mommsen, and Craig Wright; and Kari Carswell, Abbi Aitken and Kat Heathcote  and many more – who have progressed the women’s game so well  that the men must have felt bound to respond; Simon Smith and Toby Bailey who put in the hard yards away from the spotlight, Ramsay Allan in the office, Malcolm Cannon who came, and saw, and made it happen.

And I think of Ben Fox, the Comms Man, who has so often been the Messenger of bad news but has somehow avoided getting shot, and now can proclaim the Good News!

All that hard work, commitment and dedication – and for all of them,  in different ways, alongside the hundreds of volunteers across Scotland, cricket has been life changing.

Right now, in the evening Summer sunshine of Stockbridge, there are thousands of people as happy as they have ever been – because of all those folk who believed in Cricket Scotland and brought us to this point.

And suddenly I don’t know whether to laugh or cry – a daft old bugger on top of the world.

It’s only a game, but it makes you think – and the view from the heights of this old pavilion has never been better!

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. William ferguson permalink
    June 12, 2018 1:13 pm

    that’s brilliant. in Texas, I had to explain to my American family why I was crying. 30 years of the same rollercoaster all suddenly very much worthwhile. and here we are, 2 days later, still misty eyed but ready to go again

    • June 12, 2018 1:18 pm

      Thanks William – must seem faintly unbelievable all the way over there!

  2. Ross Mack permalink
    June 12, 2018 5:02 pm

    True sense of emotion in your writing.

    ’m basking in the bright light of victory, and Scotland have beaten England at the Grange! I let that sentence echo round my brain for a few seconds – it’s like the first sip of beer on a hot day: my, that feels good!

    Having been an scottish international fencer and having accomplished wins against England I understand the pure depth of all that this means.

    Allow this feeling to wash over everyone involved for a long time. Congadualations to you and all involved in Scottish Cricket

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