Professional contracts for Scotland
Cricket Scotland has taken a significant step forward in handing professional contracts to three of its players, Dewald Nel, Gordon Goudie and Ryan Watson, the Scotland captain.
Scotland, one of the six Associate nations, has received a significantly increased grant of US$350,000 (£230,000) and it was widely expected that leading Associates would try to use this to allow their leading cricketers to turn professional. But general economic uncertainty, allied to a reduction in the sum expected because of the postponement of the Champions Trophy last September, has led to plans being revised.
Nevertheless, it is a step forward for British Associate cricket and the trio join Kyle Coetzer (Durham) and Navdeep Poonia and Calum MacLeod (both Warwickshire) as full-time professionals.
"This is truly a historic development for Scottish cricket, and I am proud to be able to lead this squad to the World Cup qualifier, and to show what we can do in the T20 tournament in England next year," Watson said. "Professionalism is the right move at this moment. It's the most important next step in the development of the game in Scotland - and it's an incentive for the younger lads who can now see the improved possibilities of making a career in the sport, if they work hard and perform well."
Associate cricketers have long struggled to cope with playing cricket on a near full-time basis in addition to holding down their jobs. Sponsorship and funding has gradually increased in the last few years, but only such a marked rise in funding from the ICC - such as this one - can allow boards such as Cricket Scotland and Cricket Ireland to support players who want to devote their careers to cricket.
Warren Deutrom, Ireland's chief executive, told Cricinfo that his board "intend to do something similar" to Scotland though an announcement isn't due until the middle of February.