“I walk this empty street / On the boulevard of broken dreams”
As the Scottish team walked back to the pavilion, distraught and depressed, it was Greenday’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams that best represented the state in their dressing room. Not only had their journey to the World Cup been cut short in the most heart-breaking manner, the larger question of their future as a cricketing nation swivelled around as well.
Seven games. Four wins. One tie. Before the qualifying event for the showpiece event in England next year, not many would have realistically given the Kyle Coetzer-led team from Scotland with much of a chance in the 10-nation event being held in Zimbabwe.
Amongst already established countries like West Indies and Zimbabwe and the newly-crowned Test countries Ireland and Afghanistan, the participation of the other teams was considered as nothing more than a mere formality. But maybe it was the lack of expectations or the serious concerns over their future together that led to the Scottish team putting up a performance that left many gutted after their cruel ouster.
After a surprise win over Afghanistan in their first game, in which Calum MacLeod scored a well-defined 157 in 146 deliveries, the confidence within the camp grew leaps and bounds. Wins over Hong Kong and Nepal further boosted the side and when they managed a tie in a thrilling game against the hosts, their ability to handle the nerves in crunch situations did not escape many. Going unbeaten into the Super Sixes was a mighty slap on the face of the International Cricket Council, who instead of globalising the game are intent on doing just the contrary.
They faced their first defeat after going down to Ireland by 25 runs in their second outing in the Super Sixes. Before that, they had a win over UAE, which meant that they were locked in a fierce contest with West Indies on the points table, with the game between the two sides deciding the way ahead for both teams. It was a direct shoot-out, with the winners earning the spot to England, and the losing team left alone to ponder the ‘what ifs’.
The day began on a sunny note for Safyaan Sharif, who had Chris Gayle dismissed in the very first delivery. As he pitched the ball on the middle stump, it swung away to find an outside edge of the colossus’s bat. The next over, West Indies were reeling at 2 for 2, with Shai Hope falling to Sharif for a duck.
A 121-run partnership between Marlon Samuels and Evin Lewis floored the Scottish cricketers but just when they looked in charge of a final flourish, Bradley Wheal and Michael Leask ensured that the carnage never arrived. Once Samuels was dismissed, the Windies could never really capitalise, and the next 85 balls fetched just 63 runs, with two boundaries and the loss of five wickets.
Set a target of 199, captain Coetzer and Matthew Cross gifted away their wickets early. With the Scotland team tottering at 25 for the loss of three wickets, the score of 199 seemed far away. However, the team’s highest run scorer in the event, MacLeod and Richie Berrington dug the team out from the hole. Just when they seemed back on track, disaster struck in the way of a dubious LBW decision that saw Berrington walk back to the pavilion.
Yes, wrong decisions are a part and parcel of the game, but when one human folly can lead to severe consequences, the governing body should be questioned. With dark clouds lurking and with no reserve day allocated, the dismissal of Berrington sent Scotland way behind the DLS par-score. With a steady drizzle transforming into a heavy downpour, the game and the hopes of the Scottish team, who were just five runs behind the par-score, remained in fine balance.
Five runs. The margin between despair and joy; between glory and doom. Forget the move to have 10 teams in the World Cup next year, the ploy to not have the crucial event equipped with the DRS stunned one and all.
How serious is the ICC in promoting the game? Do they even realise that years and years of hard work, with little or no funding is what brings a team to a stage where they can get together players from a country where cricket isn’t even seen as a sport? The stakes at the event were high – a World Cup spot that was on the line. For sure, a little financial expenditure, by way of the DRS, would have been the way forward.
Maybe if the reserve day could not be accommodated, the DRS should have been. After dashing the Associate Members’ hopes by reducing the World Cup to a 10-team affair, the least that ICC could have given the players, who balance multiple jobs to support their passion for cricket, was a fool-proof Qualifier. But that too, seemed too much for the ICC, who have recently earned the wrath of fans for their conflicting judgements on Kagiso Rabada and Shakib Al Hasan.
But it is not only the immediate implications following their exit that caused heart-break for Scotland. Cricket Scotland will end up losing an approximate sum of £700,000, with chief executive Malcolm Cannon stating that player contracts would have to be cut down.
With most high-profile teams engaged in series against each other, Scotland’s itinerary, as of now, comprises a sole ODI game against England on 10 June and two T20I matches with Pakistan two days later. With no exposure at the international level, the opportunity to train at the grassroots level too seems uncertain and Cannon was forthright when he said that the future of the sport in the country looks bleak.
“My shadow's the only one that walks beside me/ My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating,
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me/ Till then I walk alone"
Scotland impressed with their courage, their nerves and their love for the sport and their thoroughly professional performance sees two of their batsmen in the top-five run-scorers and two of their bowlers in the two-five wicket-takers with Sharif leading the list at the ICC World Cup Qualifier. However, till the governing council takes concrete steps in their direction, Cricket Scotland and the other Associates will continue walking lonely paths towards uncertainty.