A new era dawns for European cricket today with the simultaneous launch in Glasgow and Voorburg of the North Sea Pro Series.
The brainchild of Cricket Scotland officials and their Dutch counterparts at the KNCB, the North Sea 20 and North Sea 50 tournaments have been formulated to bridge the gap between club and international cricket for professional cricketers - both full and part-time - in Scotland and the Netherlands.
Scotland will be represented by the Reivers, with players culled from the west and south of the country, while the Highlanders comprise the best from the east and north.
Loading article content
It is a development which excites Andy Tennant, Cricket Scotland's Director of Cricket. "This is the first domestic professional cricket we have had in Scotland and we aim to raise the standards," he said. "The tournaments will offer a really important stepping stone for club cricketers as they move towards international level.
"There are two trophies up for grabs and, in an ideal world, I'd like to see one going to the Reivers and the other to the Highlanders. But we are under no illusions; the Dutch teams will provide a very high standard of opposition and that is what we want for our pro cricketers."
Tennant might like to see the honours shared but the Reivers, who open their campaign with a T20 clash against the Hurricanes at Titwood this afternoon, have their eyes on double success. Colin Mitchell, their team manager, is impressed not just with the commitment of Cricket Scotland but also of many of the clubs in the Western District Cricket Union who are supportive of the initiative.
"Cricket Scotland are really upping the ante in terms of their commitment to the new tournaments. This is taking our old district cricket on to a new level. Both sides will be making two trips to Holland which involves a considerable financial commitment in itself and there will also be video analysts and physios on site to help out.
"Players will definitely feel a marked difference to what they are used to at club level. I think it's important that the North Sea Pro Series replicates as closely as possible what players will experience when they move up to the next level.
"A lot of clubs in the WDCU have really got behind us by making grounds available for training as well as staging matches. I think it helps that our squad is picked from a wide range of clubs in the area."
Reivers coach Steve Knox is well placed to assess the relative merits of the two Scottish sides, having coached the Eastern Knights before their merger with the Caledonian Highlanders two years ago.
A vacancy arose to return to the Highlanders following the departure of Neil MacRae to Jersey during the close-season, but Knox opted to remain with the Reivers while Toby Bailey will replace MacRae.
Knox said: "I enjoyed it with the Reivers last season when we won our 50-over competition [against the Highlanders]. But we are a work in progress and I wanted to stay and develop what we have started. I think we have a good, strong identity - almost like a club side - and we want to go into these new tournaments and hopefully win them.
"The Highlanders will be really competitive as well and we're looking for revenge after they beat us in last year's T20 tournament. They have a truck full of all-rounders and that gives them lots of options but we have fantastic talent at our disposal."
Two of the Reivers key players - Richie Berrington and Calum MacLeod - miss today's opener due to injury and county commitments respectively. In Berrington's absence, Majid Haq will captain the side with Knox handing debuts to Saltires and former Yorkshire pace bowler Iain Wardlaw and South African Con de Lange who left Northants last autumn to become the player-coach of Clydesdale.
The Hurricanes will be led by Dutch international skipper Peter Borren.