THE journey is just as significant as the destination for Shane Burger. Cricket Scotland’s head coach is back in the United Arab Emirates this week to lead the men’s national team into four one-day internationals against the hosts and the United States.
The Cricket World Cup League 2 matches form part of a qualifying process for the 2023 World Cup that is so convoluted that it requires the wisdom of Stephen Hawking to figure out an explanatory graphic that contains more arrows than the opening credits to Dad’s Army.
Ever since the International Cricket Council (ICC) took the decision to reduce the number of teams competing in the 50-over World Cup from 14 to 10, it has become almost an impossible mission for Associate nations like Scotland to qualify.
Burger is not overly disheartened by that situation but does concede that, with the odds stacked against them, it makes it just as important for Scotland to embrace the challenge of playing regular cricket as it is to fret over the eventual outcome.
“The way it’s set-up now gives you three years of 50-over cricket on a consistent basis,” said the South African.“That’s great for the development of the players and for growing the unity of our squad as a whole. Our aim is still to qualify for the World Cup in 2023. That’s something every cricketer wants to get to.
“We know it’s going to be tough to make it to a 10-team tournament but over the next two or three years I believe we can build up to something that could be quite special.
“But the journey along the way is just as important. It allows us to bring in younger guys and mix them with the experienced players to construct a tight-knit squad. That’s vital for the long-term development of the sport in Scotland.
“We’re in a pretty good space just now. We’ve got a strong squad of 14 players in the UAE who can all make an impact. The boys have prepared really well and we’re ready to get going.”
Scouting the opposition has proved tricky. The UAE squad has been decimated by the ICC’s decision to suspend five of their players on anti-corruption charges relating to potential match-fixing allegations that arose ahead of their hosting of the recent T20 World Cup Qualifier.
Burger said Scottish cricket could not afford to be complacent on this front either.
“There’s no place for this in the game in any shape, way or form,” he said. “We owe it to our fans and our sponsors to make sure cricket is clean and played in the right spirit at all times.
“Coming from a South African background with hopefully strong morals and ethics I’ve never quite understood how this happens. But people can sometimes be targeted in times of weakness. And it’s amazing what the power of money can do to people.
“We certainly believe that our house is clean and hope it remains that way. But you can never say never so we can’t afford to be complacent around Scottish cricket.
“We have to hope we deliver the right message to the players and they take ownership and responsibility for their actions. I believe we have a set of values
that we all stick to. And if anyone breaches these values then Scottish cricket won’t be for them.”
This week-long tournament concludes what has been a frenetic opening year for Burger as Scotland’s head coach. The South African is already looking forward to a 2020 schedule that includes three home matches against New Zealand and Australia, and the T20 World Cup in Australia in October.
“It’s been a massive eye-opener for me in terms of international cricket,” he admitted. “Next year we’ll probably play more cricket than we ever have done and that’s exciting. I’ve really enjoyed working with these players and hopefully more we can go from strength to strength.”