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What the future holds for Scotland after their poor performance in South Africa
April 19, 2009
Scotland return from South Africa with their one-day status intact but without the place at the 2011 World Cup that seemed to be theirs almost by right before the start of the qualifying tournament. A string of poor performances meant that only a win over UAE in their final Super Eights match salvaged even their ODI future.
While many of the headlines after that game were of relief, there will be some serious inquests about how such a seemingly well-prepared side with a strong professional back-up team came away with so little.
While much of the ICC funding remains intact, Scotland will lose the US$150,000 a year they would have earned to help them prepare for the World Cup. That will in part be offset by an increase in the base funding for the leading Associates.
But in the current economic climate, attracting a major sponsor without the lure of World Cup exposure will be hard. Lloyds TSB Scotland is bowing out after seven years as chief sponsor at the end of 2009, and the board will have to work hard to find a replacement. While there will still be high-profile matches against England and other touring sides, the worry is that without TV exposure - and the England ODI last summer was not broadcast at all - the value of the deal will be low.
Dreams of the team becoming largely professional appear, for now, to be in tatters. The three players who were given full-time contracts earlier this year are safe, but they are unlikely to have much company in the months ahead. That will mean Scotland, like many other Associates, will often be forced to field weakened teams as their players juggle family and work commitments.
On the field, it is quite possible that there will be retirements as the recriminations begin. Some senior players may decide that without a World Cup at the end of the rainbow, the sacrifice simply isn't worth it. Ryan Watson's future as captain is already being speculated on, and there is likely to be a major review of the coaching team. In the past player-power has been blamed for undermining the position of more than one coach, and that has been partially responsible for the state of affairs now.
Roddy Smith, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland, was realistic in an interview with the Scotsman. "There are no excuses. Quite simply, the team's performances have not been good enough," he admitted. "In the end, finishing with ODI status was a huge issue for us and it means we can plan with some security for the next few years knowing our budget. Not reaching the next World Cup is a major disappointment and we will all have to lick our wounds and move on from that."
It could have been so much worse, and Scotland are in a better position that most other Associates in that they are still guaranteed a significant amount of good-quality cricket, largely because of their proximity to England. They also have a sound infrastructure in place.
But in the coming months the board will need to look at the reasons why it almost all went wrong in South Africa and how they can ensure that in four years time they are at the top of the pile. It might well get messy before the rebuilding can begin.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and AfricaFeeds: Martin Williamson
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