It’s Not All Doom and Gloom: Why I’m Optimistic After Zimbabwe

An impassioned plea from a dedicated cricket fan, Iain Leggat, to not allow the recent controversies within the world of cricket to halt the development of the sport, especially within Scotland, or to dishearten young and emerging talent.  

The Scotland team were beaten in the World Cup qualifiers by the West Indies

After Scotland’s recent campaign at the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers I have found solace in the character I am playing in a drama production at university.

Over the last month I have been rehearsing for a play titled ‘Candide’ written by Mark Ravenhill. It’s a philosophical and at some parts completely bizarre piece of theatre in which ‘Optimism’ is the key theme. Based on Voltaire’s satirical novel, the protagonist is continually met with misfortune and horror, all leading him to realise that the world is all doom and gloom.

But throughout the chaos, my character ‘Pangloss’, the Dr Feelgood of it all, is attempting to create a world where pessimism is non-existent. Through every disaster he is quick to remind the audience that:

“An individual’s suffering is outnumbered by the general good – all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

My role may be a satirical character, attempting to swerve even the cruellest of tragedies into a sign of better things to come, but with the ICC’s atrocious decision to create a 10 team World Cup, leading to a hotly contested qualification tournament which has inevitably caused more harm than good, I find myself taking my roles mind set a little more literally than I first imagined.

When the rain fell and Scotland walked off the field against the West Indies, I knew, like many, that this would be the end. A cruel and heart-breaking climax for a team that deserved so much more than they were to be given.

The game called off. The win given to the West Indies, and with that, Cricket Scotland facing uncertainty. A loss of a potential £700,000 boost in investment. The chance to grow and promote the game in Scotland hitting a speed bump, and significantly less games for the senior teams to play.

Doom and gloom indeed.

I am new to the world of lower tier cricket and it would be naive of me to assume that finding a solution to all this is easy, but over the past year I have seen the positives outweigh the negatives. That the heartbreak suffered, ‘is outnumbered by the general good’. Optimism isn’t the worst idea in a time like this.

Although this week has been painful, with Sikandar Razi’s powerful speech exemplifying that, I believe that change will come from this. The qualifiers in Zimbabwe will serve as a turning point for associate cricket.

The standard of cricket is no longer a feasible argument for the rich boys to brandish as a way of halting the growth of the game. No longer is the calibre of cricket a fantasy for fans of lower tier cricket, and no longer can this be ignored.

The qualification campaign presented the perfect platform for associate nations to present themselves on a world stage. Scotland put out the best overall showing. A dominant display against Rashid Khan’s Afghanistan, comfortable wins against Nepal, Hong Kong and the UAE, a classic battle against hosts Zimbabwe, and a DLS loss against West Indies. A match in which it was harder to find a fan for the test nation than the Scots.

The fact that nothing has come from these is tragic. But they happened. The performances were put in, no faltering at the final hurdle and the team is young and have a hunger and desire for more success.

I’ve been constantly impressed by the confidence that Kyle Coetzer and his team have. Their willingness to not be fazed by even the biggest of cricketing nations. No doubt instilled by coach Grant Bradburn and his desire to put development first, allowing young and hungry players to grab every opportunity presented to them.

If this is not a source for optimism, I don’t know what is. I love this. I am inspired by this, and everyone else should be too.

The tournament itself is now, and will forever be, a missed opportunity for the ICC to grow the game, but for the associates a huge success. Every team got a win, the rivalries between the teams was on full display, and there were storylines better than any test series between top tier nations in the last year.

From this I smile, I laugh, I even dance a little.

The tragedy is that it wasn’t all broadcast for the world to see, not even a simple radio commentary was provided. We were left in the dark, with journalists Twitter feeds providing more compelling insight than some of the ICC’s match commentary.

There has been record interest on social media throughout this tournament. Hashtags promoting the games have received a lot of attention, and the negativity towards the 10 team World Cup on Twitter was, yes at sometimes hostile, but loud and necessary.

The respect that associate cricket has achieved from the tournament is not only impressive but incredibly uplifting. Hearts have been won and this can never be underestimated.

This must continue. It cannot be a phenomenon that appears at every major event. If we keep kicking and screaming it becomes a problem that cannot be ignored. The world’s attention has been grabbed and with that the ICC’s heads shall be turned.

Perhaps I believe all this because of the schadenfreude felt since the Smith-Bancroft ball tampering incident. Seeing a powerhouse nation crumble to something as crappy as ‘Sandpaper Gate’ shows the leaders of the sport aren’t untouchable.

A so-called crisis in test cricket, constant searches to find innovations to stay relevant, and when the sport we love finally makes the front page it’s for cheating.

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the Cricket Scotland team for little under a year now. Albeit from a far, I have witnessed the dedication and love that every member of the team has for cricket. Their desire to grow the game is heart-warming, and a visit to their office makes me remember why I fell in love with the game.

This is where Scotland’s West Indies loss will hurt the most. The halt in development is what no one in the game ever wants to see, and where the hypocrisy of the ICC’s decisions is clearly evident. As soon as their decisions stop a kid from putting on pads for the first time it’s a travesty.

This should act as a call to arms for the associate nations. Enough is enough. This tournament has served as a defining moment for associate cricket. We can choose to look back at the missed opportunities and individual suffering with regret, or look at the positives and general good and realise this glut won’t last forever. If we keep fighting, change will come.

“All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

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