As part of my BA (Hons) Sports Journalism Creative Research Project I have attempted to link G Gregory Smith’s (1919) controversial, but original, theory of duality within his fellow Scots’ literature and psyche in his seminal work, Scottish Literature: Character and Influence.
The idea that it could be similarly transferred into cricket and Scotland’s paradoxical relationship with the game is at the heart of my paper and this interview embedded within the Scottish Cricket: Caledonia’s Game website.
This interview with Scotland cricket legend Fraser Watts is part of the Creative Research: Major segment and a sports journalism connection to the academic work in the Creative Research: Minor.
Accompanying this interview is a podcast with Fraser as part of my BA (HONS) Sports Journalism Creative Research Project: Major Component which is incorporated with this website.
As the days grow longer and lighter, the vicissitude of the seasons turns winter into spring, forming the nascent weeks of one of Scotland’s great paradoxes: cricket.
Fraser Watts is getting ready for one of the final coaching sessions at Grange Loan in Morningside, Edinburgh.
He is one of the most respected men in Scottish cricket circles and has been involved at almost every level of the game in both club and national and continues to do so today.
Due to our busy schedules, we have to meet for a chat a couple of hours, on a mild Saturday afternoon, before another coaching session at Carlton.
The topic of discussion will be G Gregory Smith’s “Caledonian Antisyzygy”, Scottish national identity and duality and where cricket falls in the psyche and consciousness of Scotland, its supposed contradictions and its people.
Since Watts retired from the national side in 2013, he has started completing his England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Level 2 (UKCC) Coaching Badges.
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.
Watts 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 3 ICC World Cups.
The former Saltires top-order batsman was also part of Scotland’s 2004-5 team that won the ICC Intercontinental Cup and ICC Trophy.
Last year, Fraser’s club Carlton completed a domestic double, being crowned National Club Champions and winning the Eastern Premier League title.
Cricket is a rather complex sport at the best of times, dividing sports enthusiasts for generations and none more so than in Scotland.
The nation is not known as a cricket powerhouse, in fact, it seems to barely register in the games outposts, despite having been played in the country since 1785, when the first match was recorded in Alloa.
In her book The Mighty Scot: Nation, gender, and the nineteenth-century mystique of masculinity, Maureen Martin, expanding on G Gregory Smith’s “Caledonian Antisyzygy” theory of duality of the Scots’ psyche and literature as paradoxical in nature.
Straight away, this theory is proven as Watts describes the game in Scotland as being seen as a “stigma” and that many of his compatriots “don’t associate cricket with Scotland.
“Yeah, it’s contradictory I suppose, to a lot of popular opinions.
“As you said,” he quickly points out, “cricket in Scotland is completely unknown. It’s almost like a stigma.
“I don’t know if that’s because rugby and football are so big in Scotland or, people just don’t really associate cricket with Scotland at all?”
Paul Scott, in Scotland: A creative past, an independent future, noted that T.S. Elliot, one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets and Nobel Prize winner in 1948 in Literature once wrote: “was there a Scottish literature?”
This can be, equally, asked about cricket in Scottish sport. “It’s a game that people don’t really associate with Scotland,” Watts said.
“However, there’s a massive cricket following and interest, in Scotland.
“But, I suppose, if you said to someone ‘cricket in Scotland’, their first reaction would be: ‘doesn’t exist!’ or ‘do we even play cricket or that sort of thing?'”
He adds: “Whilst there’s a huge cricket following and base in Scotland, it’s not widely known, so I suppose, it’s a bit of a contradiction in that way.”
Watts believes the theme of duality and contradiction in the Scottish psyche is evident in the country’s domestic game.
Smith’s “Caledonian Antisyzygy” is the idea that within every Scot lies the split personality or divided self.
This, Smith found, was one of the principle themes in the writings of Scottish authors’ was duality and contradictions of the Scottish psyche, none more famous the Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
This encompasses divisions in politics, religion and geography such as the disputes between Protestants and Catholics, the Highlands and Lowlands, even with cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Robert Crawford discusses highlights this in his book, On Edinburgh and Glasgow.
A professor of modern Scottish literature at the University of St Andrews he wrote that liking both Edinburgh and Glasgow equally is a form of “bigamy” and a taboo in Scotland.
Watts agrees: “You’ve got cricket lovers and non-cricket lovers. In the cricket fraternity, there is divides; there’s the east-west divide.
“There was a national [cricket] league that split because the west did not want to be part of a national league.
“They were very much against having to travel to places like Aberdeen and such, whereas, in the east, we wanted a [combined] national league to make [the cricket] the best quality as possible.
“Not just with cricket,” he adds. “I don’t know what it is but it’s the Scottish way; we like conflict, we like infighting.
“We’re a proud nation but, throughout history, we have fought internally and potentially undermined our strength.
“Looking back at wars against England and Robert The Bruce’s time. There was all that backstabbing and infighting between the clans which was wrong and maybe it translates over to today; I don’t know.
“So yes, there definitely is a divide in that sense in cricketing fraternity but obviously, in the wider population, there is that divide between those who know about cricket and love it and those who give the standard answer of: ‘I didn’t now cricket was played in Scotland.'”
In Cricket and Globalisation, Alan Bairner and Dominic Malcolm discussing Cricket and national identities on the ‘Celtic Fringe’ wrote that cricket is widely regarded and associated with being “English” and believe this is why the sport is seen as a “minority” sport in the Celtic nations.
Tim Wigmore goes further in Second XI: Cricket in its outposts, describing the sport as the “traditional symbol of the English-loving posh elite” which is a widely held view and generalisation.
Although Kevin McCarra agrees, he argues that despite cricket being “assumed to be quintessentially English”, its “Scottish adherents” can be described as “tenacious”.
“That’s a very interesting point,” Watts notes. “I’ve not really thought about that before but yeah, you could maybe say that there is that massive, sort of typical Scottish attitude of ‘we hate England’ which, I think is fine in the context of, if we are playing England.
“We also have to regard the fact that England are also our neighbours; we’re the same country, we’re all British.
“So, as much as I do enjoy berating England … you know there is that general ‘we don’t like England’ attitude in Scotland.
“Maybe because cricket is so much associated with England that people use it as a good reason not to like it.
“But I do also know there’s a lot of people in Scotland who love cricket who have got no link to England at all.
“I’m not sure what the correct answer there is but could be a reason maybe, I don’t know.”
Angus Calder’s Scotlands of the mind highlights the contradiction of Scotland’s apathy towards cricket, thought of as English, so, therefore, unpopular but football and rugby were also introduced to Scotland by their southern neighbours with cricket having an older history.
While, Carol Craig in her book The Scots’ Crisis of confidence revisits Robert Louis Stevenson, who understood that, despite all similarities between the Scots and the English, there is ‘a very strong Scots’ accent of the mind.
Watts takes a little moment to think about this before saying: “I think the point there, is that [because] cricket is sort of seen as an upper-class game [associated with] southern England and maybe when you speak to most people and they say ‘cricket is for posh people who stand around in a field all day and have cups of tea, cucumber sandwiches and that sort of stuff’.
He is in agreement with Wigmore, who disputes the notion that cricket in Scotland is an “elitist pursuit” and agree that cricket, in certain areas of Scotland, is “classless” and enjoyed by Scots from all socio-economic backgrounds despite, the misled view that cricket is widely played by all the nation’s citizens.
“I don’t necessarily agree that cricket is a higher class sport.”
“But that’s probably the perception people have, that it’s a posh English sport and therefore, in Scotland, we like to think of ourselves as working men,” he said.
One of the unique paradoxes of Scots is in their National Identity or rather, identities. Unlike many nations, Scots have the unusual situation of having not only Scottish but British identity which also falls into Celtic and then European. It can be very confusing.
Neil Blain, Raymond Boyle and Hugh O’Donnell in Sport and National Identity in the European Media further suggest that Celtic nations struggle with their “British identity” and therefore use their football teams as an outlet for their national identity.
Sport, according to Mike Huggins in his work The Victorians and sport, distinguishes Scottish identity from British and English and has become a way of asserting Scottishness.
This could be true in so much as the Tartan Army has carved out a unique form of football (and rugby) support, distinguishing the Scots from other nationalities by way of kilts and ginger wigs.
Watts, however, does not altogether agree with these conclusions. He said: “I don’t think we struggle with our national identity; everyone’s fiercely proud of being Scottish.
“But, I suppose, we’re in that unique position that we’re Scottish, primarily, but we’re also British. I’m very proud to be Scottish but, I’m also very proud to be British.
“I like the fact that we’ve have a Scottish identity as well, but I think that’s where the confusion lies: we are both. How many countries can say that?
“Maybe that’s where the confusion or the paradox lies. Britain is unique in that respect.”
Cricket’s popularity in Scotland has grown over the years, while the football team goes from ignominy and defeat to humiliation and back again.
The football team last played at a World Cup in France, 1998 and has never won a global tournament.
The national rugby team has had some success in the past but last won an international tournament during the final Five Nations in 1999 and, until recently, had lurched from one embarrassment to the next both on and off the field.
In contrast to this, the Scotland cricket team has played at two recent World Cups in both limited-overs formats of the game as well as winning two Qualifying tournaments since 2014.
“Cricket is maybe the third sport in Scotland,” suggests Watts.
“There’s a huge history of Scottish football and rugby.
“Although cricket is now one of the highest participating sports in Scotland, you can’t argue with history and a lot of people have grown up with football as the main sport, and maybe more so now, rugby.”
He adds: “If you look at the big cities right now, the huge [sport] is football. Look at Glasgow, you’ve got Celtic and Rangers and in Edinburgh as well, you could argue that there’s a religious undertone.
“It’s a game that’s been played by the masses for a long, long, long time and you can understand why people have it in their heart.
“And cricket’s a bit of an imposter; it’s a newer sport and there are other reasons [as mentioned earlier] to dislike cricket.”
Watts 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.
This leads the former Scotland international to a topic which both baffles and infuriates him in equal measure.
“On the cricket-rugby point,” he argues, “the game has changed and the demographic has changed and Britain changed. Scotland has changed. Cricket is struggling [in Scotland] because it’s a long game.
Cricket, however, despite all of the problems it faces in Scotland, from apathy and dislike because of rules and its “posh, elite, private school and English connection”, it’s the greatest challenge faced worldwide, is its lengthy time-span.
There is 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).
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?”
“It’s the same with golf; it’s struggling because it takes so long,” he adds.
The Carlton man is not impressed with the way the game is being governed and has some ideas to promote cricket and increase its popularity.
“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.
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 and Watts.
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]?
[Sahking his head] “We are our own worse enemy,” he states. “The amount of times that we shoot ourselves in the foot?
“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?”
Robert Loius Stevenson: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the United States, Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 80 years.
Permission of people and children in photos was granted at the time in accordance with Cricket Scotland and the development officer at the time in 2015 and available on social media.