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Could a ‘Five Nations’ tournament boost Scottish cricket?

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Scotland batsman Calum MacLeod joined the show to reflect on his side’s famous ODI win over England two years ago.

MacLeod hit an unbeaten 140 not out in that match to give the Scots their first-ever victory over England, who a year later were crowned world champions in the 50-over format.

Scotland themselves didn’t feature at last year’s 50-over World Cup, their hopes of qualification ending after they fell to a five-run defeat to West Indies on DLS at the World Cup Qualifier.

Speaking on the podcast, MacLeod lamented the ICC’s decision to make the 2019 tournament a 10-team affair, criticising the lack of opportunity for Scotland and other Associate nations to showcase their ability on the global stage. The 2023 50-over World Cup is also set to feature 10 teams.

“It’d be nice to get those opportunities to go and play,” said MacLeod. “If you look at way the 2015 World Cup went for us, we should have won two games there, but we went away from that, gained experience and realised some of the mistakes we were making and used that experience to get slightly better.

“I’m not for one minute saying that we were going to come in and win the World Cup, but we could have come into a 14-,15- or 16-team World Cup where you’ve still got to qualify and it’s still an achievement to qualify, but it’s still the top teams who can go on and prove they can beat some of the top nations.

“On the one hand the ICC have put a lot of money, time and effort to run quite a good Associate programme. If you speak to most Associate cricketers they’ll say the standard is as high as it’s ever been. And the ICC have got to take a bit of credit for that, but to then make it a 10-team World Cup and think that we’re just happy playing qualification games – it’s doesn’t add up for me. There could have been four, five, six teams from that qualification tournament that could have gone into that World Cup and played well enough to challenge the top teams. It’s the only way that the game grows.

“If you look at the way Afghanistan and Ireland [both became Full Members in 2017] have jumped in front of other teams, it’s been on the back of some very good performances at World Cups. If we don’t have these opportunities then it narrows our chance to take that next step to become a Full Member. We want to see an equal footing where we play more cricket. The team and game in Scotland would benefit from it. We’ve shown in some of the games we’ve played that we’re good enough and we can beat these teams. It doesn’t mean we’re gonna do it every game. but just those opportunities would be appreciated.”

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As a way of increasing playing opportunities for Scotland, MacLeod gave his backing to the possibility of a ‘Five Nations’ tournament – similar to rugby union’s Six Nations – as suggested by Telegraph cricket writer Tim Wigmore on Twitter. The suggestion was for the European sides of England, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and a guest team to compete against each other.

“I think it’d be absolutely outstanding,” said MacLeod. “It’d be a brilliant tournament to be involved in. England are so busy with their tour programmes, and the Dutch and Irish are busy too, but if we could find a way of fitting it into the schedule, and with a guest team, that’d be brilliant, whether that’s a team from Europe who are lower than us. I live in my own little ideal world where I think as Scotland we should be helping the smaller Associate nations. We’ve got a duty to help teams below us in a way Full Members have a duty to the game of cricket to keep growing it.

“To have a tournament like that each year would start to mean a little bit more each year and it’s would be great for cricket, certainly in Ireland, Scotland and Holland. It could benefit the English as well. They’ve lost games to all three of us now.”

Listen to the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast on the Podcast App or Spotify.

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