The Neil Drysdale Column
Should Scotland adopt a global cricket recruitment policy like The Netherlands?
Scotland’s cricketers have been experiencing familiar results in their CB 40 forays thus far this summer. There have been occasional shafts of brilliance and individual heroics, allied to a solitary deserved win in the competition and they will enter the brace of Bank Holiday contests, away from home with Hampshire and Surrey, fully aware that they need to start registering consistent successes or risk mid-table mediocrity or worse.The Neil Drysdale Column: Previous Articles
The Netherlands, on the other hand, stand at the summit of their group, with four victories from five contests, and impressively disposed of the challenge of reigning county champions, Lancashire, and Essex in Schiedam last week to increase their hopes of progressing to the later stages of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Yet, for many observers, the Dutch exploits are difficult to applaud and the reason for that lies in how the side is packed with players with only tenuous connections to the Oranje, let alone having the slightest clue as to the lyrics of “Tulips from Amsterdam”.
The first four in their batting order are Stephan Myburgh (who was born in Pretoria), Michael Swart (Perth, Australia), Tom Cooper (Wollongong, New South Wales) and Cameron Borgas (Melrose Park, South Australia). Their skipper is Peter Borren – who entered this world in Christchurch – while their leading bowler in the Essex victory was Timm van der Gugten from Hornsby in New South Wales.
When you add into the mix the knowledge that experienced performers, Wesley Barresi and Mudassar Bukhari, originally hail from Johannesburg and the Punjab in Pakistan, it should be pretty obvious that this “Netherlands” collective is closer to a United Nations XI. And even if we bear in mind that other “Dutch” stars such as Ryan ten Doeschate and Alexei Kervezee have joined the English county circuit, we shouldn’t forget that both these fine talents originated in Africa, the former in Port Elizabeth and the latter in Namibia.
It wouldn’t do to be overly sanctimonious in discussing this issue. The Saltires have fielded plenty of non-Scots since entering the Totesport League in 2003 and some of their brightest luminaries, such as Ryan Watson, Paul Hoffmann and Cedric English learned their cricket in the Southern Hemisphere, long before arriving in these parts.
But, for the present at least, the Scottish coach, Pete Steindl, seems determined to encourage his home-grown prodigies and he merits praise for that strategy. The Scots might not be the equal of most counties, but, in the guise of such emerging stars as Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Freddie Coleman, Matty Parker, Safyaan Sharif, Ryan Flannigan and Craig Wallace, they have the nucleus of a team which can clamber up the ICC rankings in the future.
Essentially, there might be short-term pain and occasional afternoons when the wheels fall off completely. But, judged purely on their youth development programmes and selection of indigenous players, Steindl and his assistants have gone down a different route from the Netherlands. The crux of the matter lies in the question: Which policy is right? Or are there positives and negatives in both approaches?
Personally, I happen to believe that Scotland have under-performed in the CB 40 event for the last few years and their fortunes in their most recent two fixtures have explained why they are not in a similar place to the Dutch.
They did well to dismiss Hampshire for 220 in Uddingston, only for their batsmen to fail en masse. Then, when the latter amassed their biggest total of the campaign – 258 – against Durham last Sunday – it was the turn of the bowlers to suffer a collective meltdown. The Netherlands, by comparison, have won two of their tussles by one wicket and one run respectively, which suggests that all these Aussies and South Africans are having a sound influence on those around them in the dressing room.
Yet, when push comes to shove, how does it benefit them in the long-term, in World T20s and World Cups, when these players suddenly aren’t there? And how does it help any country’s emerging potential to look in from the outside and discover that eight or nine players in the national side were born elsewhere?
Ideally, the Scots would be winning more matches and precocious characters such as Coleman would be mustard-keen to grab his chance and score big runs next week. Yet, when one examines what happened to Scottish rugby with the recruitment of so many “Jock Boks” and “Kilted Kiwis”, perhaps it isn’t the worst thing for Steindl’s personnel to be asked to grow up quickly, even if a few of their number struggle in the process.
As for the Dutch, they have clearly profited from importing Swart, Cooper, Myburgh & Co. But how will they fare when they are up against their Associate rivals in the future?
Ultimately, that is the acid test of the direction in which both nations are going.