SCOTLAND’S cricketers must feel like a child sitting in front of a plate of stodge knowing there’s a knickerbocker glory waiting for dessert but only if they can finish their main course first.
The Saltires have qualified for the T20 World Cup but must overcome one final but sizable challenge if they are to set up mouth-watering contests against the likes of England, Australia and India.
To get to that point Shane Burger’s men must finish in the top two in a first-round group that includes Oman, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea, three matches that will either catapult them into the cricketing spotlight or send them straight home while the party carries on without them.
Form and talent suggests Scotland are capable of winning all of those games but history brings with it a cautious note; they have only ever won one game at a T20 World Cup and that a dead rubber against Hong Kong five years ago. One win will likely not be enough this time.
Kyle Coetzer is not getting carried away but the captain hopes that, should they make it to the Super 12 phase of the tournament, Scotland should be more than capable of holding their own.
“It’s going to be a challenge first of all to get through the group stage although we firmly believe that’s something that’s well within our grasp,” he said.
“The nature of T20 cricket leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat sometimes. But as a squad of players and what we have available to us, getting through to the Super 12s is something we should be achieving.
“And if we get to that stage, that’s when pressure is then off us. Even in that section we feel that if fronting up against any of the full member sides we will certainly give them a run for their money.
“We understand it will be tough but we definitely believe we will make it difficult for any of those major teams if that comes to pass.”
Qualifying for World Cups and playing – and ideally beating – Test-playing sides is all part of the journey that Cricket Scotland hope will help them follow neighbours and rivals Ireland into becoming a full member of the ICC [International Cricket Council].
Doing that will unlock access to greater funds and resources that will help take the game in this country to the next level.
Scotland have been fortunate this time that they’ve been able to prepare for the World Cup by competing in Oman in a one-day series and then staying out in the Middle East for T20 warm-up games in Dubai.
Coetzer, though, has been around long enough to know that hasn’t always been the case.
“The toughest thing we often face when going on a tour is that we don’t get practise games first because we don’t have the funds to spend an extra couple of days or longer in these countries,” he adds. “That’s just the reality of it.
“That’s, ideally, the next step for Scotland if we want to improve. We already have a squad that can compete in world cricket, I’ve no doubt about that.
“But we have to give ourselves the best opportunity to do that. It would be like sending a football team out to start their league season with no pre-season games first.
“So we need to raise those funds or find benefactors who can help us. Imagine if we could get three practise games in the week before every tournament starts?
“We’ve shown we’re a capable group and can beat the best. Guys have found ways to continually develop in challenging circumstances. And nobody is scared to front up. They’re a real passionate bunch who love playing for Scotland.
“But more preparation would give us a better chance. We’ve got guys who are mixing careers which can be good and bad. It’s often good to have something to take your mind off cricket but what it doesn’t do is give people longevity.
“So when they’re coming into their prime they have other options in their lives. That’s the challenge we have to face. You want to hang on players for as long as you can, having invested in them.
“But maybe they hit their prime and think, ‘this isn’t manageable anymore’. These are the challenges all Associate countries face.”
Coetzer is 37 now but has had no thoughts about this being his last tournament, believing he can keep going for as long as he’s still wanted.
“There’s plenty of things that have gone through my mind over the last two years,” adds the Aberdonian.
“But I’m enjoying playing as much as ever. I’m taking it year by year and seeing how we go. But the plan is to continue playing for Scotland until I feel I can’t keep up the standard or they decide there’s a better option. I’m feeling good and keen to keep going for as long as I can.”