Scotland ready to take next step after dream start to T20 World Cup, says Wright

SCOTTISH cricket again stands on the cusp of a major breakthrough. This has already been a hugely significant week, with the team announcing their arrival on the global stage in the best way possible with three successive victories at the T20 World Cup. In six previous tournaments, they had only ever managed a solitary win.

That has seen them advance to the Super 12 stage alongside some of the behemoths of the game and the task now is to see if Scotland can rise to the challenge of taking on India, Pakistan and New Zealand. Winning even one of those games would represent another major step forward as the Saltires look to show they deserve a regular seat at cricket’s top table.

Craig Wright is certainly not of a mood to dampen rising expectations. The former Scotland captain is back in the fold as head coach Shane Burger’s assistant and believes this week’s performances, alongside incremental improvements made over the past few years, have helped create a squad that can cope with high-pressure situations and have the belief to see it through.

“We got close in the 2015 one-day World Cup to winning a game and the same in our first two games in 2016,” says the former all-rounder.

“The difference here is that we’re starting to get over the line. The guys are closing games out. In the past we’ve got into situations where we could or should have won matches and hadn’t managed to do that. This time we’re seeing it out.

“That’s probably largely down to belief. This team has had big results over some of the top teams over the last three or four years. And just having the experience of winning matches like that really contributes to it.

“We’ve known for a while that we’ve got an extremely talented group who have played a lot of cricket together for a long time. They’ve got a lot of experience, had some success. This just feels like the culmination of the journey this team has been on for quite a while.

“I get the sense that we go into games against Associate teams knowing that we’re better than some of them, and against full members now knowing we can compete and on our day knock them over. That’s going to get put to the test again over the next couple of weeks but I’m sure we’re capable of getting more impressive results.”

Afghanistan tomorrow in Sharjah and then Namibia on Wednesday represent the first two hurdles in this phase before the team gets a well-earned week-long break before taking on the three giants of the group.

It may be a tall order to expect Scotland to maintain this winning streak indefinitely but Wright revealed that confidence among the group remains sky-high.

“I don’t think we want to put any limits on our expectations,” he added. “We’ve genuinely got a team that, on its day, can beat any other side. It’s just a case of us going into each with the mentality we’ve adopted so far; relaxed, focused and believing, that if we turn up and play our game, we can beat anyone. 

“We’ve had good preparation going into previous World Cups without getting the results we desired. This time it’s been good. The 50-over series we played in these conditions – good, tough cricket – prior to getting into the T20 stuff was really useful in terms of getting guys gametime as well as a period of acclimatisation for the heat. That worked really well.

“The great thing so far is that we’ve been winning games without playing anywhere near our full capabilities. When we do play to our maximum then the opposition will need to play very well to beat us.”

The trick for those promoting the game in this country is to try to maintain interest levels once the World Cup is over and the excitement has died down.

Reaching the Super 12 phase has guaranteed Scotland a place at next year’s tournament and Wright, a former Cricket Scotland marketing manager, hopes more positive results in the fortnight ahead will help increase the sport’s popularity back home.

“There’s always interest in us when we have World Cup appearances and the coverage is always fantastic,” he added. “You’re really seeing that with the results we’ve been getting.

“The challenge for Cricket Scotland has always been maintaining that and making sure the focus during the World Cup isn’t just a flash in the pan. That’s why it’s really important that the team continues to move forward and hopefully full membership comes at some stage.

“Our other ambitions are to qualify for the next edition of the World Super League in the one-day format and also the next ODI World Cup, while we already have the next T20 World Cup next year to look forward to now as well.

“Hopefully all this visible cricket will help us to maintain a bit of the momentum that’s been built up with the results we’ve been achieving in this tournament. The support has been phenomenal back home and all of us out here are well aware of it.”

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