Am I alone in thinking that a World Cup Qualifier, spread over more than a month in New Zealand in January and February, is the best thing that could have happened to Scotland this winter?

Plainly, the teamís failure to qualify automatically for the 2015 finals is bad news. Having to fight other also-rans for a 13th or 14th World Cup ranking that wonít be anywhere near enough in 2019 Ė when the quota shrinks to 10 - is a thankless duty fraught with peril.

Ask my fellow CricketEurope contributor, Ryan Watson. He was captain of the decaying Scotland side that went to South Africa in 2009 and only narrowly survived the obscurity of one-day international exile, never mind exclusion from the big party in India.

That teamís nerve was shot, but expectations are gentler now, competition among the top six associates is slightly less fierce and this young group, after a summer of defeats brightened only by the domination of Kenya in Aberdeen, have an opportunity to prosper at this level. But they will only do so if they can create momentum and knit together as a team, and do it quickly.

Every player or coach I spoke to before, during and after the Australia game confessed that it wasnít ideal that this new-look national squad hadnít come together since the series at Mannofield in mid-summer, and even now the captain wasnít here.

Kyle Coetzer was fulfilling another role of profound importance when he stayed at home with his baby daughter, also nursing an injured wrist, as the season climaxed in the first week of September. But he needs a busy winter at the helm of this collaboration of domestic Scots professionals, crack county hands and club amateurs, and most importantly they all need some time together to bed in as a team.

Training, eating and sleeping in unison on a daily basis will be a start, but their preparations need a sharp end and there is no sharper end than a World Cup Qualifier. Can you imagine how this project would have drifted over the winter if Scotland had sneaked into the World Cup and there was nothing to play for post-World Twenty20 qualifiers? Pete Steindl would have emerged in April knowing far too little about the team that will, ultimately, define his tenure as coach.

And so to a busy winter, bookmarked at both ends by important contests with the likes of the Netherlands, Canada and the UAE. Scotland should qualify for the T20s, and after that would it really have been better to have faced into a winter free of pressure? No, staying busy will give them the oxygen to grow.

Besides, Scotland havenít been anywhere near convincing enough in this World Cricket League campaign, winning only seven of their 14 games, to stake a claim for rightful ownership of a top-two spot among associates. Those days are gone and it is Afghanistan who Ireland measure themselves against.

There were various permutations that could have led to Scotland finishing second, third or fourth had they done better at Stormont, but two defeats leaves them facing up to the grim prospect of finishing fifth, only above Kenya, Canada and Namibia, the other associates who have fallen from grace.

As indicated earlier, missing out on a smooth passage to 2015 is bad news. The future is scary and it will be even scarier if the ICC start to classify Scotland as third-tier material. But the opportunity is there now to make an impression by finishing second or, ideally, first in the Qualifier Ė and prove that Scottish cricket is at least going in the right direction, not becoming internationally irrelevant.

Steindl and Preston Mommsen have overseen a summer of bruising defeats, and had Coetzer led out a team Down Under the year after next that had not been exposed to any truly pressurised situations, it would have been natural to start watching that World Cup from the sanctuary of a safe seat behind the couch.