Scotland look forward to another 'big event'
Zimbabwe's confirmation that they won't take part in next year's ICC World Twenty20 in England comes as a relief for Scotland, who will replace them by virtue of finishing third in the recent qualifying tournament.
Ireland and Netherlands had earned their spot in next year's tournament by reaching the finals of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Belfast earlier this month. Scotland won the third place play-off, and their hopes hinged on Zimbabwe Cricket's decision.
"We were very confident that Zimbabwe would ratify their earlier decision to withdraw, but there is always that element of doubt," Roddy Smith, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland, told the Times. "It is a big relief, too. The key thing is that we need to keep competing in these world events, to keep reinforcing that we are up there with the world's elite. We need to keep playing them, and will hopefully get a result against one of them sometime.
The tournament will be Scotland's third straight appearance in a major event; they took part in the World Cup in West Indies and the World Twenty20 in South Africa during 2007. "For our guys, it is another big event to look forward to next year," Smith said. "Along with facing Australia and the World Cup qualifying tournament, next year is building into a really big one for us. This decision gives us another chance to play against Test nations - it is a big, big boost."
Cricket Scotland is reportedly finalising a plan to provide a few talented young players with full-time contracts, giving them sufficient opportunities which presently might be only possible with an English county. Scotland's national side will now start their 2009 fixtures with the Friends Provident Trophy, then the World Twenty20. They will host Australia for a one-off ODI, besides the initial rounds of the ICC Intercontinental Cup. They will also be taking part in the qualifiers for the 2011 World Cup.
Peter Steindl, the Scotland coach, was delighted with the outcome. "It is a great piece of news to get at the end of the season and we are really looking forward to it.
"It is exciting, challenging, that's for sure, but at the same time there is lots of good cricket there for us to aim for," he said. "We can't wait for that opportunity. By qualifying for World Cups and the like, you do get extra funding and that helps to pay for the programmes for players. This will come in handy in terms of helping to professionalise some of the players.
"This sort of event is the reason why we do what we do. All the players who were involved in last year's World Cup and the Twenty20 had a great time, really enjoyed the experience of facing the best teams in the world. Playing against world-class opposition is the chance to challenge ourselves and really improve our own performances."