CRAIG Wright may have missed out on becoming Scotland's new coach to Grant Bradburn, who was announced as Pete Steindl's replacement last week, but the former national captain will take charge for the showpiece match of the international season when England arrive at Mannofield on Friday for a one-off fixture.
Wright had been tipped in several quarters to land the top job on a permanent basis after his stint in joint charge with Paul Collingwood was marked by the national team's qualification for the 2015 World Cup. However, after locking horns with England's new coach Peter Moores, the 40-year-old will have to be content with playing second fiddle to Bradburn who will be in Aberdeen to see his new team in action.
While England will undoubtedly be keen to put the troubles of last winter behind them and no doubt lifted by the return of Moores for a second period at the helm, it would come as little surprise to those who know Wright well if he was able to mastermind a first win against the Auld Enemy. This after all is the man, who as captain, inspired the era when the Saltires learned to stand up to English counties, not merely competing but frequently beating them.
Loading article content
Wright can even boast success against Moores who was coach of Sussex when the Scots headed to Hove in 2003 and returned with a famous win.
Scotland, too, have their tails up following the success that saw them lift the World Cup Qualifying trophy in New Zealand.
The majority of their side now earn their crust on the county circuit, a circumstance which has helped shake off any sense of inferiority which might once have prevailed. Certainly, inferiority is not a trait which Wright will acknowledge as he prepares his team to face the likes of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Joss Buttler and the rest of England's finest who were so ruthlessly taken apart by Australia a few months ago.
"Every time a big game like this comes along - and they still don't come often enough - we should treat it as a massive opportunity," Wright said. "The team built some great momentum during the tournament in New Zealand and it's important that we continue to play that positive brand of cricket and impose ourselves on the opposition. It doesn't matter if we're against Hong Kong, Holland or England, we have to believe in our own ability."
Belief was one of the traits Wright instilled during his period as captain of a Saltires side who took significant strides forward during his time and it is one which continues to serve him well as a coach.
"One of the things I wanted to do when I became captain was to shake off the shackles and lose the inferiority complex which we seemed to take into games against English counties. I used to look at scorecards from the old B&H Trophy games and see counties making about 270 batting first and Scotland replying with scores like 160-6. It was as if we were content with respectability. I wanted to change that mentality and adopt a more attacking, aggressive approach and I think we did that."
Having often got the better of English opponents in his playing days, as a coach Wright is desperate to oversee Scotland's first win against one of the major Test-playing nations and he views Friday's encounter as the perfect opportunity to do just that.
"Why not," was his typically bullish response when asked if more misery can be inflicted on English cricket. "I know they have a new coach and teams in any sport normally get a lift from such changes but the last time England played as a team they lost to Holland. OK, it was a T20 game but so-called upsets are happening more frequently in all formats and we have to back ourselves to do it against England.
"We have been close a few times to taking a scalp and we have to knock over one of the big boys soon enough, so why not on Friday?
"There is certainly a whole lot more pressure on Peter Moores and England than on Craig Wright and Scotland and hopefully that's something that can count in our favour. Another is the talent at our disposal because I honestly believe we have players who can hurt teams at any level."
These include skipper Kyle Coetzer who returns to lead the team in his native Aberdeen after missing the closing stages of the World Cup Qualifier with the recurrence of a wrist injury. Coetzer boasts a batting average of 82 in ODIs at Mannofield and is regarded as Scotland's top performer with the willow. His vice-captain, Preston Mommsen, is also restored to full fitness following a pelvic problem and there is a welcome return for the Aberdeen-born all-rounder Josh Davey following his emergence from the doldrums. Davey lost his Middlesex contract and his Scotland place last autumn but has earned a deal with Somerset and will aim to recapture the form which saw him claim Scottish record ODI bowling figures of 5-9 against Afghanistan a few years ago.
Meanwhile, win or lose, Wright will warm to his new role assistant national coach and head of elite payer development when Bradburn arrives in July.
"I'm very comfortable with the way things have panned out and am looking forward to working with Grant," he said. "These are exciting times for Scottish cricket and I'm delighted to be involved."