Judd injects passion into Scotland
Momentum is a crucial factor in sport and any coach who can generate self-belief and adrenaline deserves the right to name his price. When Tony Judd led Scotland into the National Cricket League in 2003, his sheer enthusiasm was as infectious as the throaty chuckles which peppered his conversations with his players. They loved him and what might have been an embarrassing exposure to superior English county standards immediately turned into a magical mystery tour. His personnel beat Durham, Somerset and Lancashire in the space of 20 days and although these heroics couldn't be sustained, they demonstrated Judd's motivational powers. Now, after an unexpected return to Greenock, Judd, 44, is back in the picture and anybody who has watched the Scots recently must welcome the news.
Yet, when he departed Glenpark last autumn to take up a position with the Victoria Cricket Association, following seven seasons in Scotland, the odds of him returning were not high. In reality, it is family circumstances which have prompted him to venture afresh to his adopted country. However, within days of his arrival, Pete Steindl was in contact to discuss whether Judd might fancy accepting an assistant's role with Cricket Scotland, as Ryan Watson's team prepare for a crucial period of competitive action, in next month's ODIs against Ireland and New Zealand, the subsequent European Championships and, arguably most important of all, the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament in Belfast at the beginning of August.
In anybody's language, it seems a treacherous schedule for a side so short on confidence. On the pitch, they have suffered a collective hangover since their dismal World Cup campaign last winter, and, apart from enjoying an unexpected series of wins over Lancashire, Scotland have become used to adversity in the Friends Provident Trophy. Off the pitch, there has been dressing-room unrest culminating in the removal of Englishman, Andy Moles and Australian, Peter Drinnen, while the majority of the squad have grown significantly more prickly about media criticism, even when the facts are staring them in the face. Yet none of this mattered to Judd when he trotted into the Greenock clubhouse on Friday. Where other people might have been defensive or bland, he was positively champing at the bit to get started.
"I used to coach Pete [Steindl], we both get on very well, and I want to stress that I'm thrilled that he has come to me and asked if I want to be involved again, because this is a great gesture from him, and I am proud to be working with him again," said Judd, who spearheaded the Scots' victory in the inaugural Intercontinental Cup in 2004, as well as amassing a brace of SNCL titles and five Scottish Cup successes for his employers at Greenock. "The Saltires have now had nearly 100 games against the counties, and I just don't believe that the gap is all that big any more and that if any of these teams treat us lightly, they do so at their peril. I will be helping Pete with the boys' fielding and we will both be spelling out the message that we have a chance to get some ICC ranking points when we take on the Irish and the New Zealanders. As for the latter, I honestly reckon we can offer them a tough contest if we approach it with the right attitude, because, let's face it, the Black Caps don't have a bowling attack which is going to blow you away. Alright, they have [Brendon] McCullum, who can knock any attack in the world off their stride, but we shouldn't be intimidated by them and that is one of the things which impressed me about the Scottish team five years ago, when we came incredibly close to beating Pakistan in Glasgow [the hosts lost by one wicket]. I suppose it boils down to the fact that in one-day cricket, big names are there to be shocked and shot down if you take the fight to them and ignore their reputations.
"My own philosophy is always to be positive and never to be happy with damage limitation. If my side is chasing 260, I would far rather they were all out for 190 in the 38th over than scratch and scrape along to 212 for 8 off the full 50 overs. Pete Steindl feels exactly the same, which is why I am confident about the future and how we will work together in a common purpose. It's exciting."
|As for New Zealand, I honestly reckon we can offer them a tough contest if we approach it with the right attitude, because, let's face it, the Black Caps don't have a bowling attack which is going to blow you awayTony Judd offers his opinion on New Zealand who Scotland face|
These words embody Judd's optimistic personality and one need only talk to Saltires stalwart, Paul Hoffman, to discover why he was held in such lofty regard during his earlier tenure. "Tony wears his heart on his sleeve, he doesn't pull any punches, and he is ultra-competitive, but above all, he never blames a player if they are doing their best and aiming to be adventurous," said Hoffmann, who retired at the end of 2007, but may be poised to participate in the Twenty20 event in Ireland. "I think Pete and Tony will make a terrific combination, and the more good coaches we have in Scotland, the better. But the one thing about Tony is that he won't tolerate complacency or laziness, and he is a demanding guy. Sentiment doesn't come into it, and I think we all share the opinion that it is high time we followed Ireland's example and beat one of cricket's big guns."
Ultimately, with Judd in the mix, along with Steindl and Hoffmann as the Scots' performance analyst, there won't be any dearth of positive vibes or passion - or Australian twangs - behind the scenes. But if Judd can galvanise the likes of Majid Haq, Fraser Watts and Watson into reproducing their best form, in addition to continuing his work with youngsters such as Richie Berrington and Calum MacLeod, then his influence could be considerable. Laughs have been in scant supply of late, but this Pete'n'Judd show has the potential to raise the spirits of everybody within Scottish cricket.
Neil Drysdale is a freelance journalist and author