Lack of cash could lead to Scottish decline
Scotland's World Cup cricket captain, Craig Wright, has voiced his fear that the sport has hit a "glass ceiling" in his homeland and that, barring some significant new investment for the leading players, he could foresee the Scots starting to slip back down the international ladder, a scenario which Wright described as a "disaster".
n the past five years, Scotland have climbed to 12th in the ICC rankings, while winning the Intercontinental Cup and the ICC Trophy, and coming second in the inaugural World Cricket League in Kenya four months ago. However, Cricket Scotland chief executive, Roddy Smith, admitted yesterday there was no immediate prospect of his organisation being able to fund professional or even semi-professional contracts - "there simply isn't enough money to support it" - which left the normally buoyant Wright issuing a gloomy prognosis for Scottish cricket.
"I don't believe we can realistically expect to go any higher in the rankings without extra funding and, if anything, the situation is growing more critical, because we have an ever-expanding fixture schedule - which is good in one sense - which means that the guys simply can't get time off work," said Wright. "One of the potential outcomes of this is that the top guys may have to pick and choose their games, meaning that we will struggle to keep up with the likes of Bangladesh and Kenya [both of whom have or are sorting out pro contracts), and it becomes a vicious circle, with us not being as competitive, from where fans don't come to watch, and sponsors get turned off.
"There is no longer any point in ducking the issue, but we seem to be banging our heads off a brick wall at the moment, which is terrifically frustrating, considering how hard we have all worked. It's almost the case we have succeeded in spite of, not because of, the system, so what is going to happen next when we have hit the glass ceiling? Logically, you have to accept there is the threat of going backwards, which would be devastating."
Wright's words were delivered, prior to the ICC's meeting in London next week, where it's expected that the governing body will be urged to offer greater support to the emerging nations in advance of the next World Cup in 2011. "I am convinced that, for a relatively small amount of money, we could take substantial strides forward and we have to make that case to the ICC," said Wright, whose compatriots tackle Pakistan in Edinburgh on July 1. "Obviously, we have to be quietly confident that we can spring a surprise in that game, but we have to strive for a level playing field, otherwise we may have gone as far as we can go."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa