The Neil Drysdale Column
Majid Haq interview
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Majid Haq isn’t one of life’s loudmouths, nor does he indulge in blowing his own trumpet; the only spin which comes from this fellow lies in the adroit deliveries which have baffled and bewildered many Test-class batsmen. Yet, as one of his country’s most successful performers in the last decade, Haq is always worth sounding out when it comes to discussing the health of Scottish cricket and his hopes and ambitions for the future. And, even if he speaks quietly, and chooses his words with care, the Clydesdale man invariably has valuable lessons to impart for those prepared to listen.
On Sunday, Majid was doing what he does best, confounding opponents and acting as the catalyst for a dramatic collapse by Hampshire at Bothwell Castle Policies, which saw them slip from 105 for 1 to 220 all out in the CB40 competition, with Haq claiming three wickets, including the Test duo, Simon Katich and Sean Ervine, off consecutive deliveries, as the English county’s early swagger evaporated. Sadly, for the Saltires, their batsmen failed to maintain some recent impressive displays, with nobody able to amass more than 33, as they crashed to an emphatic 89-run defeat. But, in the aftermath, there were no harsh recriminations from Majid, who has witnessed enough of these sort of erratic showings to realise that the Scots are always going to be struggling to find consistency if most of their elite performers are only in action once or twice a week.
None of which meant he was inclined to offer platitudes in defeat. “On that wicket, 220 was just a par score, and we although we let them make a flying start, it was a great fight back by the bowlers and fielders in the second part of the innings,” said Haq. “The problem is that we didn’t bat well enough, either individually or as a unit. We started too slowly, then we lost wickets in clusters, and although Calum MacLeod has done well for us in other matches this season, we can’t keep relying on him to set the pace. It is up to everybody – myself included – to raise their performance levels in these matches.”
“It was certainly nothing to do with the pitch and I hope there will be more high-profile games at Uddingston, because Hoffy [the former Scotland paceman Paul Hoffmann] prepared a belter of a wicket and the atmosphere from the fans was terrific. So we should have got closer to the target than we did. But these things sometimes happen in one-day cricket, and we just have to pick ourselves pick and learn from the experience.”
Haq is no starry-eyed dreamer. He recognises that the current situation, where the Scots are involved in a domestic club structure, which fails to prepare players for the rigours of meeting county rivals, let alone confronting international adversaries, is a problem which refuses to go away. In an ideal scenario, the Saltires would have a much greater number of Lions and regional contests, allied to something along the lines of the European Championship which I proposed last week, but Majid appreciates that different countries have different priorities and organising any new competitions requires time and money, allied to consensus and goodwill between the participants. From his own perspective, he would prefer to be in action more frequently – “The more I am playing, the less time I would have to spend in the gym” – and he is keen for the Scots to be in involved in more Twenty20 fixtures, but, in the bigger picture, any changes tend to occur slowly, and it hardly helps that Pete Steindl’s men didn’t qualify for the World T20 later this year.
“Hopefully, we can keep playing 40-over cricket [in the CB40] and maybe join the Twenty20 in England as well, but we know that we have to improve our results and, while I think that we are moving in the right direction, we have to keep pushing ourselves on,” said Haq, who correctly pointed out that the Saltires had county men, such as Ali Evans and Josh Davey in their line-up on Sunday, so there was no excuse for the fashion in which the Saltires conceded 100 runs in the first 14 overs of the game.
“I said, before the season started, that we had to win more of these matches against the counties and I stick by that. I am confident we can do so and I am looking forward to taking on Durham next weekend. But we are all aware that we need to improve.”
Majid has fond memories of the latter county. It was at the Riverside ground in 2003 that he ripped through the English team’s middle order, to restrict them to under 180 and lay the foundations for the Saltires to claim victory in their first-ever fixture in the Totesport League. Since then, there have been occasional afternoons to savour in these jousts, and other memorable individuals displays which have prompted cheers from the Tartan-clad supporters. But, as Haq has observed, these have been the exception, rather than the rule, and the days where everything has clicked have occurred far too infrequently.
That needs to change in the future, and Haq is sufficiently honest to admit it. Even if he could hardly have done a better job for his team in the last nine seasons.