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The tale of the Highlanders

cricket Updated: Aug 17, 2007 03:13 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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The United Kingdom has followed the Indian sub-continent when it comes to international cricket. While the Asian region has four Test-playing nations, their European counterparts are steadily making progress with Scotland and England joining the powerhouse England in the One-day international arena over the last decade.

While Scotland made their World Cup debut in 1999, Ireland had to wait for another eight years, before making it to the big league in this year's World Cup in the West Indies.

And what a debut it was. Not only did the Irishmen beat Pakistan in the group stage and qualified for the Super Eights, they also upset Bangladesh to prove that the Pakistan victory wasn't a fluke. This also earned them an entry into the ICC ODI rankings.

Scotland, on the other hand, were slightly left behind after the 1999 edition as they failed to make it to the next edition, played in South Africa in 2003. But they bounced back to reclaim their spot, but were unlucky to have been grouped with the champions Australia and giants South Africa.

If you compare Scotland and Ireland in terms of sheer stats, Ireland seem to be way ahead of their UK associates. Scotland skipper Ryan Watson defers.

"I don't think we are too far behind than Ireland," Watson told the Hindustan Times. "On the other hand, I would say that there's hardly any difference between the standards of both the teams."

Watson justified his point by pointing out the head-to-head record of the two sides.

"We have played three games against them over the last year and have won one of them, that too chasing a mammoth total (Scotland had chased 281 off the last ball in January this year). And the last match that we played against them was also a close game (in July when Ireland won by 23 runs)," he said.

For the record, Scotland since their debut in 1999 have played 26 ODIs, winning seven and losing 18. Ireland in just a year have played 22 matches, won 6 and lost 13.

Does that necessarily mean the Scottish cricket has improved over the last decade? "Very much," Watson said. "In 1999, we didn't have many people playing the sport. Now, we have a larger pool of players available for selection. And more importantly, a lot of kids are taking up the sport seriously.”

One of such players is Majid Haq, a left-hand middle order batsman and off-spinner. Haq, 24, was born in Scotland and has been playing the sport seriously for 14 years. And in a country where cricket is still considered more of a hobby than a profession, Haq, who completed his graduation in accountancy last year, plans otherwise.

"All I am thinking about these days is cricket," he said. "I cannot think of anything else as a profession."

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