Ryan's team ready for action
Mike's Twenty20 Diary
Johannesburg, Friday 7 September
Our first full day in Jo’burg was essentially a team day. The team met at 08.30 to hear from coaches Andy Tennant, Pete Steindl and Steve Seligmann how they proposed that Scotland should approach the Twenty20 World Cup - with aggression, boldness, creativity and discipline. Don’t expect a sledging rammy, however, the aggression bit is directed entirely to the ball! Andy T was particularly strong on his love of the aggressive and bold Lion Rampant as a suitable symbol and inspiration for his team, so look out for it on the telly!
There was little time available before we all clambered aboard the bus - complete with the team’s CPO (Close Protection Officer, according to the team‘s resident policeman) and liaison officer - and made the 40-minute journey to the Eastern Cricket Union’s Benoni Stadium. This turned out to be more of a cricket complex with 14 squares, founded in 1913 by a group of coal-miners from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Denis Compton made a triple century here in 1948, in 181 balls. And, equipped with massive floodlights and over 2,000 permanent stand seats, with a separate six-net practice area, it fitted Scotland’s needs exactly.
The coaches had planned the practice session with military precision, while the stadium’s CPO and half a dozen police officers in two squad cars waited around. Kenya had drawn the early shift and were packing up while our boys warmed up on the close-cropped stadium outfield. When the hard-working net session ended in 25 degrees, they returned to the stadium for some intense fielding exercises, while the nets were taken over by Pakistan, fresh from their latest sensational incident with Shoaib Akhtar.
Among the Pakistani party is ex-Saltire Yasir Arafat, who now has a central contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board as well as hoping to return to play for Kent again next season. Yesterday’s Shoaib shenanigans would appear to make more likely Yasir taking the field against Scotland in Durban next Wednesday to play not only against quite a few of his former Saltires team-mates, but also possibly against Ross Lyons and Qasim Sheikh, both of whom benefited from his presence at the Clydesdale club where he was pro for six seasons.
Then it was back onto the bus for the return journey to the hotel… past neat estates of basic brick and corrugated-roofed starter houses for former slum residents in Johannesburg, some of them still under construction and others even having architectural merit and some trees in the yards! The commercial buildings lining the motorways had serried ranks of parked cars outside, many of them shaded from the intense sunshine by endless strips of outsized canvas gazebos.
Once back in the hotel, it was straight into an exhausting series of media access obligations, being interviewed by this that and the other TV station, including the ICC Cricket World magazine programme and the host broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (but don’t forget that BBC Radio Scotland is carrying its own commentary on the two competitive matches in Durban next week on 810khz medium wave).
Gavin Hamilton was asked an idiotically insensitive question by a journalist about how he proposed to improve his South African playing record… “by scoring a run,“ he replied helpfully! And Dougie Brown emphasised his burgeoning media commentator credentials with a masterly interview for ICC Cricket World… indeed, it was almost the perfect video CV for some vacancy or other at MES Sports Centre!
Lots of up-to-date still pictures were taken, too, every player sporting their new gold tops for the cameras, while Neil McCallum, Qasim Sheikh and Navdeep Poonia contributed their video piece to the UNAIDS campaign which the ICC and the participating teams are supporting. And finally, those who hadn’t taken part in such an event before were obliged to attend an anti-corruption presentation by an ICC official.
And so, after a team dinner in the hotel's Thai restaurant, ended a busy, but highly productive day. Tomorrow, the squad play Bangladesh in a practice game at Centurion Park.