Scotland’s Qasim Sheikh has launched a scathing attack on his country’s cricket coach, Pete Steindl, claiming that he has been cast into the wilderness by the Australian.
The 27-year-old Glasgow-born batsman, who is now performing in the Staffordshire League, has not represented his homeland since 2010 – despite scoring back-to-back centuries against Ireland and Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup, and starring with another brace of hundreds for Scotland Lions.
He told the Herald he had “no chance” of a recall while Steindl remained in charge of a team which failed to reach the 2011 World Cup, missed out on reaching the finals of this year’s World T20 competition, and has finished bottom of their group in the Clydesdale Bank 40 tournament for another season.
“I could have kept quiet, and just let things get worse, but it’s time for one or two people to stick their heads above the parapet and come clean on what is happening in Scottish cricket,” said Sheikh, who has an average of nearly 28 in the 16 first-class fixtures he has played.
“I will never appear for Scotland again, with him in charge, which is ridiculous, given my age, but Pete Steindl is an under-13 coach who has been given a national coaching job. I don’t understand why nobody is looking at his record – which is dismal – and asking why he is still there. He was given a new three-year contract recently. Why? If I had performed as a batsman the way he has as a coach, I would expect the sack.
“This isn’t sour grapes: it is about addressing the problems which mean that Scotland is falling behind Ireland and the Netherlands, and where several players have told me they are demoralised with their handling by the coach. I have tried to get in touch with him to make myself available for Scotland Lions games, but he hasn’t got back to me. [Assistant coach and fellow-Australian] Tony Judd isn’t much better: I was asked to go up to Aberdeen for a Western Warriors game, then he had me batting at No 9. He seemed to think it was funny, which sums up the way these people operate.”
Sheikh, who enjoyed a purple patch in 2009 and the start of 2010, a period where he became the first Scottish-born cricketer to score a first-class century in Pakistan, accepted that he had not performed to expectations after being given a six-month contract by Cricket Scotland.
“I will put my hands up, I didn’t have a good season [in 2010]. I was having some technical issues and my form deserted me, so I am certainly not arguing that I should walk straight back into the Scotland side,” said Sheikh.
“But look at what Scotland have achieved, under Steindl. They had one good victory over Ireland [at the Grange] in 2011 and another against Bangladesh, because Richie Berrington hit a terrific century, last month. Sure, that was a positive result against an ICC Full member. But are we really pretending that one win a season is anything like enough to feel satisfied?
“I am not criticising players, such as Richie and Majid Haq, who are talented guys who are constantly producing. I want the Scots to do well, and I am passionate about this issue. But while this coach, and Tony Judd, both of have no track record at international level, are in charge, it’s difficult for Scotland to go forward.”
Sheikh is a feisty character, never afraid to speak his mind, and confesses that his combative approach can rub opponents up the wrong way. But he is not the only frustrated figure in the Scottish game. Ross Lyons is another 27-year-old, who seems to have been frozen out, despite excelling for East Kilbride, and Haq, the most consistent Scottish performer of the last five years, is also believed to be unhappy at the lack of opportunities to shine with the bat in recent months, to the extent where he is contemplating searching for an (English) county contract.
Nor is Qasim alone in his views. Another member of the Saltires, who requested anonymity, agreed that Sheikh had been badly treated by the hierarchy. “I really feel for Qasim. He would be a senior player by now if they had stuck with him,” said the player.
“He’s a fighter, who never gives up, and has the ability to score big when the team really needs it. Opponents hate playing against him, because he gives more than he gets.”
That quality has deserted many of the current generation of the Scots, who have grown addicted to failure. Sheikh’s words will doubtless be repudiated by the governing body, but there is no question that he has voiced genuine concerns.