Former Scotland cricketer Fraser Watts has called for more to be done to promote cricket, writes Kaylan Geekie.
The 37-year-old was the assistant coach of last year’s 50-over and T20 champions, the Eastern Knights, in Cricket Scotland’s Regional Pro Series as well as working Carlton Cricket Club and Grange CC’s juniors.
He was involved in the national set-up for around 15 years, is one of Scotland’s most capped players, playing over 200 matches and he participating in three ICC World Cups.
“It’s just been announced that we’re [Scotland] playing Zimbabwe in two ODIs, later in the summer,” he said.
“One of those games is on a Saturday: why on earth is it on a Saturday when everyone else [clubs and schools] are going to be playing [on the same day]?
“Why not make it on a Sunday or Friday so, people like me, can go and watch? It makes no sense, you can get a much bigger crowd on a Friday or Sunday.
“It’s happened down the years, not just now. It’s the Scottish way: why make things easy for ourselves when we can make it hard for ourselves?”
Following the Intercontinental Cup match with Namibia in Ayr (6th – 9th June) and the two 50-over World Cricket League Championship clashes with their fellow Associates at The Grange CC on Sunday 11th and Tuesday 13th June.
The matches against Zimbabwe will also take place in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, and be played on Thursday 15th June and Saturday 17th June.
The former Scots’ top-order batsman thinks that more can be done to entice more participation. The game is a summer sport and therefore does not clash with football and rugby.
“Cricket,” he says, “despite all of the problems it faces in Scotland, it’s the greatest challenge faced worldwide, is its lengthy time-span.”
Cricket is a complex sport, with three formats at international level, Test cricket, which lasts five days and the two limited overs formats; 50-overs (about eight hours) and T20 (approximately four hours).
This past season Watts’ club Carlton, completed a domestic double, being crowned National Club Champions and winning the Eastern Premier League title.
Since his retirement from the national side in 2013, he has started completing his England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Level 2 (UKCC) Coaching Badges.
At school and domestic levels, the games are played according to age-groups. But, the club games take all day Saturday and Sunday which causes many problems, especially, for players with young families or work commitments.
“You come to watch games at Carlton [Cricket club] and it lasts all day, whereas now the demographic is changed and people work longer hours or, maybe peoples’ general concentration spans, are shorter.
“Why would you spend a whole day playing cricket?” he asks. “It’s the same with golf; it’s struggling because it takes so long.”
Watts, who was part of Scotland’s 2004-5 team that won the ICC Intercontinental Cup and ICC Trophy, thinks Twenty20 could be the catalyst for improving the game’s popularity in the country.
“We need to start promoting Twenty20 more,” he says.
“Maybe we need to have Friday evening games so when people finish work, they can go watch Twenty20 and have the weekend to spend with their family.
“I’ve been saying this for a long time: ‘why not get a couple of counties up and have two or three Twenty20 games?’
“A game on Friday night, two on Saturday and a semi-final and final on Sunday? It’s exciting.”
Another issue he raises is the link between kids playing at school and not continuing once they finish. Cricket Scotland’s annual report figures show the game is growing at junior age-groups but not so much at an adult level.
“It’s growing at a development level, but we’re, potentially, missing that link between that development and kids.
“Kids play but they drift away [as young adults] because it takes too long and there’s no cricket to go and watch.”
Scotland is an Associate Member of the ICC – the second tier of international cricket – and therefore, has struggled to get regular fixtures outside of tournaments.
Governance is another hot topic for Watts, who has always been outspoken in his views on the running of the game, especially by the ICC, who in recent times, have been accused of killing the sport for Associate nations by excluding them from global tournaments.
It was this reason that former national captain Preston Mommsen retired, aged 29. His decision was based on the fact that Scotland was not playing enough matches to warrant him continuing to play.
Mommsen’s retirement drew the ire of players, past and present, the media, supporters.
Finally, he states. “The best thing the Scots can do is get back [and play] on the county circuit. Why not invite Durham and Yorkshire up every other month to come and play [against Scotland]?
“Why not invite Durham and Yorkshire up every other month to come and play [against Scotland]?
Shaking his head, he concludes: “We are our own worse enemy; the amount of times that we shoot ourselves in the foot.”