Howzat! Coaches sweep up local talent
Scotland's qualification for the World Cup in England in 1999 will provide the catalyst for schoolboy players to develop a career in cricket.
That is the view of Scotland's former national coach David Wilson who has spent a week touring Scotland coaching the best young players in the country.
Six regional summer coaching days were set up through funding from BP and the Scottish Sports Council's Team Sport Scotland initiative. Mr Wilson was impressed at the talent on display.
The BP Tourfest opened in Inverness and also took in Fochabers, Aberdeen, Forfar, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Mr Wilson worked with local professionals to pass on invaluable tips to schoolboys, all under the age of 14, to improve the technical side of their game.
Around 100 young players benefited from the scheme and the ratio of coaches to players was encouraging. At Strathmore County's ground in Forfar, Mr Wilson was aided by Peter Drennan, the Australian professional at Strathmore County, and Mark Kelaher, the Central District development officer with the Scottish Cricket Union.
Mr Wilson stressed to the youngsters the need to develop good habits at an early age and the need to practise skills constantly.
"There is only so much you can teach youngsters in one day but the main aims of these coaching days are to build on existing set-ups at clubs, improve skills and to introduce the game to newcomers,'' said Mr Wilson.
He accepts that the game cannot rely on schools to produce the next generation of players. The summer terms is too short for the game to take hold and the expertise and facilities are limited. It is left to the private schools to take the lead but the union's development officers are working hard to change this.
"The Scottish game is doing well just now having reached for the World Cup for the first time and we have also qualified for the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa next year which shows the game is getting healthier,'' continued MrWilson.
"The problem has been that if we produce good players, they tend to go and play for professional county sides in England. The professionals in Scotland tend to be overseas players and there has been no career structure for young players tofollow.
"But we are hoping that will change with the World Cup. There is tremendous interest in the game in Scotland and there were between 7,000 and 8,000 at the recent match against Australia. We bowled well and fielded well against the Australians but we just didn't bat well.
"I know that one of the Australians said that we would struggle at the World Cup as we were an amateur team, but the Australians did not underestimate us.
"Kenya beat the West Indies in a one-day game and I think we are currently like San Marino (the independent republic in Italy) are at soccer and they gave Scotland a hard match recently."
There is no equivalent of the English Schools Cricket Association - the body that helped nurture Mike Atherton, the England captain - in Scotland and that is why Mr Wilson believes the clubs must develop young talent. "It is the clubs - not the schools - who have the facilities and have the expertise in coaching," he stressed.