Revamped Scottish Cup gets under way
Willia Dick (CricketMedia Scotland)
A new domestic season gets underway with a new-look Scottish Cup this afternoon (Saturday).
Purists, who may first be caught out by the prompt noon starts, could very well choke on their G&Ts at the sight of players doing battle in coloured kit and with a pink ball but the administrators have decreed that the country’s premier knockout tournament needed “jazzing-up.”
In an acknowledgment of past glories, though, the competition reverts to a group format with sides playing home and away during the first three Saturdays of the season and again when the tournament resumes in mid-season.
The eight group winners will proceed to the knockout stages with the final taking place at Titwood, Glasgow, on Sunday September 2.
Andy Tennant, whose Future Structures Group had a busy winter during which league reconstruction was also agreed, said: “We felt that the Scottish Cup needed to be reinvigorated.
“It had lost a bit of importance in the old format and for some teams it was all over after just one game.
“Reverting to groups will guarantee every team six games and increase the chances of a few shock results along the way.
“Moving it to Saturdays gives the cup its proper place just like it has in football.”
The introduction of coloured kit is optional this season but will be mandatory from next year and Tennant acknowledged: “Some people won’t like it - there are always those who resist change.
“But we firmly believe that jazzing it up in this way will make the Scottish Cup a more attractive product.”
Certainly there are several attractive looking ties on the card and perhaps none more so than the meeting between holders Uddingston and newcomers Fauldhouse Victoria at Bothwell Castle Policies.
The Lanarkshire club, aiming for a hat-trick of titles, will be captained for the first time by Saltires star Calum MacLeod and start strong favourites against a team who earned promotion from the East League last season.
A new era is heralded in both camps in the clash between Clydesdale (or to give them their full name PSL Team Sports Clydesdale) and SMRH at Titwood.
The Glasgow side’s lengthy moniker is the result of a new sponsorship deal with the company run by their former opening batsman Rennie Keith.
Club chairman Colin Mitchell said: “It is nice that a guy who won two SNCL titles with this club sees fit to support us in this way.
“Rennie and everyone at the club hope it is the start of a successful partnership.”
Clydesdale also have a new captain for the season in Zeeshan Bashir while today’s opponents have also rung the changes particularly with the arrival of Cedric English from Carlton.
The former Scotland batsman has taken a key role as player-coach at the Inverleith club and his involvement is sure to boost SMRH’s prospects.
While English was a record run scorer at Carlton, his loss may not be too keenly felt by the Grange Loan club who have recruited shrewdly.
They entertain Poloc this afternoon and hand competitive debuts to former Northants wicket-keeper batsman Toby Bailey, all-rounder Umair Mohammed who has joined from Forfarshire, and former Drumpellier left-arm pace bowler John Hutton.
Poloc, meanwhile, boast a side with eight players who have come through the youth ranks though they are without the Chaudhry brothers – Bilal and Danial – who have moved south of the border.
In the same group Falkland may fancy their chances of creating an upset at home to a Greenock side who are still rebuilding.
Freuchie face a tricky trip to Ayr while Forfarshire, skippered by Craig Wallace, entertain Stenhousemuir.
McCrea FS West of Scotland, with former Scotland World Cup bowler John Blain at the helm as player-coach, start favourites at home to Corstorphine.
Kelburne have three new faces in their ranks for the visit of one of the tournament favourites Aberdeenshire.