For Scottish cricketers the chance to line up with the greats of the game is rare, but an auction run by the innovative Last Man Stands organisation is giving them a chance to buy a place alongside former South Africa star Herschelle Gibbs at Titwood next month.
One of the outstanding players of his generation he had a 12 years Test career and played in One Day Internationals for a further two years after that, earning himself a permanent place in the history books when he became the first player to hit six sixes in an over in an international match during South Africa’s pool match against the Netherlands.
A high class batsman who, mostly as an opener, was good enough to average close to 42 at Test level, he was also a spectacularly athletic fielder who continued to be an explosive presence in the T20 version of the game much sought after by franchises all over the world for several years after his international career ended.
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As part of a tour of the UK in which he is promoting the Last Man Stands (LMS) concept he will lead a team largely comprising Scottish internationals, playing alongside current women’s skipper Abbi Aitken and former men’s team captains Gordon Drummond, Ryan Watson and Fraser Watts as well as their fellow cap Ross Lyons in a match against Scottish champions Fulton’s Flyers on April 21. In keeping with the LMS ethos Luke Hayes, the leading batsman in the Scottish game last is the seventh member of the team which will be completed when the auction winner is identified after bidding closes this week.
“The winner will get a place in the game, a shirt signed by all those taking part and a seat at the post-match dinner which will feature a Q&A with Herschelle and is also proving very popular,” said Paul Reddish, the Scottish organiser of LMS.
“We’ve had steadily increasing bids so far. It has risen from an initial £100 to £425 and we seem to have put the lie to the notion of Scots being stingy because he is playing in two other matches, in London and in Yorkshire and so far the highest bid is for the Scottish match.”
Working on a pay-to-play model, LMS is becoming something of a global phenomenon within the sport, providing a highly accessible alternative to the traditional club model in aiming to maximise the fun and minimise the traditional protocol which surrounds the sport but often turn off youngsters and casual players, while offering the chance to win prizes and earn world ranking points for both teams and individuals.
Its eight-a-side matches last around two hours with rules designed to place maximum emphasis on fun, seeking to ensure that every player is fully involved and its potential has been demonstrated by exponential growth in Scotland since its introduction, with Reddish making bold predictions about the extent to which that will continue.
“In 2014 we only ran one league competition in Edinburgh and had six teams playing. This year Edinburgh will be split into North and South and there will be a total of 22 teams, there will be five in the Glasgow league, there will be eight in the East Lothian one, five in each of Dundee and Five, four in West Lothian and there are discussions on-going about getting leagues started in both Stirling and Inverness,” he pointed out.
“My prediction is that by 2020/21 we will have more sides registered than Cricket Scotland.”
A passionate enthusiast who is also currently a member of the Cricket Scotland board, Reddish believes its capacity to do so has already been demonstrated by the impact that it has had on the domestic game as the governing body seeks to get more people involved in the sport.
“Participation levels at senior level in Scotland grew last year but if you take out the LMS figures they fell,” he claimed.
There are currently around 160 clubs in Scotland and some traditionalists have been typically resistant to change, but within that context the benefits are obvious for a sport that has struggled to widen its appeal due to a combination of a slightly musty image and, perhaps more importantly, the extent of the time commitment involved in playing club cricket.
Next month’s match is intended to showcase LMS at its very best and Fulton’s Flyers - a team mainly made up of players from the host club Clydesdale - will be captained by current Scotland all-rounder Con de Langhe.
They will be heading to the Last Man Stands World Championships in Gibbs’ home city of Cape Town in December where they will be up against the national champions from all the other participating countries as well as the winners of ranking events which include the Scottish Open which was won last year by a team from Derby.