MALCOLM CANNON can appreciate the irony. Were Cricket Scotland’s outgoing chief executive to apply now for the vacancy created by his imminent departure, he doesn’t think he would get a look-in.
Four years ago, however, it was different. Scottish cricket was “being run like a sport rather than a business”. In KPMG’s annual audit of sporting governing bodies, Cricket Scotland was the only one to fail. It was dysfunctional and disorganised.
Now he can move on to a new challenge with IoD Scotland having overseen sweeping changes off the field as well as significant improvements on it.
“I wouldn’t get the job now as they are in a much better place,” he says. “We’ve changed around 80 per cent of the staff, changed our governance, board structure and strategy, and achieved things we hadn’t done before in 150 years. Financially we’re as healthy as we’ve ever been.
“We’ve been runner-up in governing body of the year twice and are shortlisted again. So the applicants will be of a much higher standard than when I got it. It was broken at that time.”
Cannon singles out the progression of the women’s game as one of the highlights of his tenure. Scotland will host next week’s World Twenty20 Qualifier and if the Wildcats can make it through to the finals in Australia next year it will count as a sizeable achievement.
“The legacy will be the development of girls’ and women’s cricket. Essentially we had ignored half of the population for 150 years. They were treated like second-class citizens and had to pay for their own training and games. The kit was ex-men’s junior kit.
“Now they are treated exactly the same as the men except it’s still an amateur sport. But they get the same kit, expenses, overnight allowances, training opportunities and coaching expertise. They’re 11th in the world but the top 10 are all professional so that’s a big gap we have to bridge. But it would be as big as our women reaching the football World Cup if we can reach the T20 finals.”
There is plenty to be optimistic about in the men’s game, too. On Cannon’s watch, Scotland have ticked off milestone after milestone including maiden victories in the World Cup and against the ICC elite.
“When I came in we only had 14 days of international cricket that year. To put it into context, Ben Stokes [the England player] played 112 that same year. So our guys just weren’t getting the opportunities and I was asked to get more international cricket, although it hasn’t always been easy to arrange.
“Getting the first win over a full member was important but we’ve now played seven of them in the past two years and beaten five of them. And we should have beaten the West Indies too when we were cruelly knocked out the World Cup.
“We would love to play all 12 full members regularly but we can’t because of the ICC and the lack of opportunity. We are being locked out of this club, not because of our own failings but by someone else’s rules. And that’s the most frustrating thing.
“If it were a meritocracy we’d be in but it’s obviously political. It’s a long-standing exclusive club. But I still think we’ll be a full member within four years.”
If there are regrets for Cannon as he prepares to move on, it is that he has been unable to penetrate Scotland’s enduring obsession with football to the cost of everything else.
“On June 11 last year, the day after we beat England, cricket was on the front page of every newspaper in the land. On June 12 there were 11 pages of football during the close season and zero about cricket.
“People see it as English, posh and exclusive but it’s not. At its peak it was played by everyone. We need to get back to that. And we’ll keep pushing it.”
Rugby was Cannon’s game before but he departs with a changed perspective.
“I wasn’t a cricket person four years ago. And up until two years ago I was probably still saying that. But I am now. I’ll remain a cricket fan after I leave. It’s in my heart now.”