Scotland v Hong Kong, WT20 qualifier, Group B, Nagpur March 12, 2016

Playing with pride, not for pride

Scotland's long-awaited moment of success shows that winning a World T20 'dead rubber' can have real importance for Associate teams

The real deal: Kyle Coetzer and Matt Machan hug each other after sealing Scotland's win © International Cricket Council

Dead rubbers are a part of international cricket. In tournaments like this we see them all the time. Two sides sleepwalking through the match, a couple of players putting in cheap good performances, the TV stations trying to pretend it all matters. They often mention playing for pride.

In Associate cricket, you can't afford to play for pride.

You play to market yourself, to grow your game, to fund yourself and mostly to survive. "There are no dead rubbers in Associate cricket. None," said Ryan Campbell before the match.

For Hong Kong, who went winless at the Asia Cup, to come back winless from the World T20 will be a big blow. Back home, they are trying to convince a country that is not known for its team sports but Hong Kong is an impatient place. They want results. They want wins.

For Scotland, they went winless in the 1999 World Cup. The '07 World Cup. The '07 World T20. The '09 World T20. The 2015 World Cup. They have sat by and watched all their contemporaries, teams they beat all the time, beat Test nations in big tournaments, and they simply arrive at a big tournament and leave, with nothing to show every time. They just need a win.

There is also the experience that this game gives. It is under lights, televised around the world, in India, who knows when any of these things will happen again. Hong Kong are a very young team, Scotland are also young, they both need to learn about these conditions for next time. Neither are about to be brought back for a five game bilateral series.

There is also the promotion. It is televised, it is a major tournament. If either team wins, their local media has a reason to talk about them. When they go to government meetings they can mention the win. When they try and land a sponsor they can use this to show they aren't just participants, they are winners.

When Hong Kong came equal third in the World T20 qualifiers - the original tournament not the redux - very few fans knew about it. The winners got some press, but the other teams didn't get much. But it meant something to them. It meant qualification for a tournament that would get them money.

And it meant they could get government funding from Hong Kong. A 'bronze medal', as they called it, might mean nothing to us but it meant more coaches, more equipment and more stability to them. This from a team that was ranked 10th in the world in this format at one stage. Performing cricket's version of hand-to-mouth economics.

The Scotland players don't just play these games for their country, these are open auditions for county deals, even league cricket deals. The only way Scotland can be a better team is if more and more of their players are professional, and while Scotland can afford some of that, having them in the county cricket finishing school is one way to do that. They need people to notice them, so they can keep working at this like a job.

For all the players a win is something to justify their time. There are no Associate players who are rich from cricket. Some have given up great jobs to be here, others have just given up safe jobs. Some have put their study to the side. Some are away from their family for long periods of time for little financial reward. All know that they are potentially doing this without the benefits or accolades that the Full Member players will receive.

If they don't win this game, there isn't a bunch lined up in which them to make amends. Neither side has any matches for the next few months confirmed. They just go back into the Associate darkness until the next time there is a major tournament they have to qualify twice for.

And they do all this while people declare they shouldn't be in the main tournament, that they don't have enough 'local' players (while rarely understanding how many they have), that they aren't good enough, and while people still believe they aren't really 'cricket countries'. It doesn't matter that Scotland and Hong Kong have hundreds of years of cricket history between them, it doesn't matter that you see them feel every single failure, it doesn't matter because they aren't "real" teams.

When Tanwir Azfal missed a caught and bowled his pain looked real. When Campbell sliced one to third man his frustration looked real. When Matthew Cross failed to bat until the end his regret looked real. Kyle Coetzer's worry looked real as it rained.

When Hong Kong lost their disappointment looked real. When Scotland won their relief looked real.

To get where they are, both nations have been rained on, both have been made to wait. Scotland had to wait over an hour to finish this match. They had been waiting for 17 years, or hundreds of years, for this moment. They were winners, but they were going home.

Both teams now go back to fight for the survival and growth of their game. It's a never-ending tussle, one both are a long way from winning, and one they don't play for pride; it's one they play with pride.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

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