Sunday, 6 May 2012


And now for something completely different....................  If Fantasy Bob's worldwide audience did not know that this was FB's work they might almost think it was intelligent cricket comment.

Fantasy Bob will be joining the dedicated band of Scottish cricket supporters at Edinburgh's Citylets Grange today as Scotland get their 2012 CB40 campaign off to a start.  He hopes that CricketScotland have invested in some patio heaters, for the weather forecasters are predicting the return of winter('Return?! - it's never gone away,' scream all inhabitants of Scotia's fair land)  this weekend.

CB40 and WD40 are not to be confused.  No one has ever coaxed recalcitrant sparking plugs to life with CB40.  The CB40 competition has 3 groups of 7 - the winner of each group and the best overall second go through to the semi-final. Qualification for the semi-final stages therefore looks a big ask for the Scots.  They face last year's champions Surrey today.  Also in Scotland's group are runners up for 2 successive years Somerset.  Surrey warmed up for their trip to Edinburgh  by crushing Somerset by 105 runs on Friday.

What should be the measure of success for Scotland in this competition?  This is its 3rd year.  In each of the 2 previous years, despite high hopes, Scotland have managed to win only 2 of their 12 matches.

The time has passed when occasional victories against county opposition should be considered a triumph, however pleasing they are on the day.  A real measure of progress would be for the Scots to win as many as they lose of these games - this would probably produce and outside chance of qualification.  

Scotland now field a team of predominantly full time cricketers.  But full time in Scotland's sense does not mean playing hard competitive cricket day in day out.  And this is the difference.  Any amount of net practice and strength and conditioning is no substitute for real play.  It is clear to FB that the county sides know how to control games either batting or bowling. They have depth in each. Scotland have still some way to go to match them.

And here is a real dilemma for Scotland.  Ireland have abandoned playing in the CB40 and play only international fixtures, reflecting their aspiration to gain Test status.  A large number of Irish players play for counties - and so play in this competition anyway.  Although some Scottish players are with counties, they have some way to match the Irish.  Exposing Scottish players to more higher level competition must be right, but is it bringing quick enough and sustainable gains?

Both Surrey and Notts (whom the Scots face on Monday) will bring some high quality cricketers to Edinburgh.  Perhaps mercifully for Scotland's bowlers KP is still smashing it all over for the Dehli Daredevils, although how he would react to single figure temperatures would be interesting.  But they do bring Jacques Rudolph - 43 Tests for South Africa and the leading run scorer in the CB40 competition.  They also bring English ODI bowler Jade Dernbach with his strange mixture of slower, even slower and yet still slower balls.  FB doesn't understand how he can be described as a fast bowler when all he bowls are slower balls. If this is the criterion, FB is still a pace bowler.

The Clydesdale bank backed this competition for 3 years as a replacement for the Friends Provident.  FB does not know whether they will continue.  Yet again there is uncertainty about the future structure of English cricket.  The Morgan report seems to have met with limited support - the players are the most recent interest group to express scepticism.  Notable in their response was the proposal that there should be an English style IPL concentrated in the middle of the season rather than spread across it as the present competition is.  That players suggest the authorities should institute a money-spinning alternative is perhaps no surprise, but it has yet to be seen as a practicable or bankable proposition in the English set up.  The 40 or 50 over game risks getting squeezed and that won't help the development of Scottish players.

So there is lots to think about as FB shivers at the Grange.  Better wear a hat to keep those brain cells from seizing up.

COME ON SCOTLAND - let's make this the season that the Counties are made to sit up and take notice. That will give options for the future.

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