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New Scotland coach Grant Bradburn ready for familiar foes

GRANT Bradburn is only a month or so into his reign as Scotland's head coach, but already the New Zealander is beginning to make his mark.

Grant Bradburn will only be picking players at the top of their game   Photograph: SNS
Grant Bradburn will only be picking players at the top of their game Photograph: SNS

Softly spoken and undemonstrative, nobody should be fooled by the almost serene exterior displayed by the 47-year-old former Test player, for underneath appears to lie a fiercely-driven individual who is determined to make a success of his latest challenge.

Bradburn's coaching pedigree is impressive, having guided Northern Districts to silverware in both four-day and one-day competitions in his homeland prior to being appointed coach of New Zealand A.

His penchant for developing cricketers of promise into the finished article will be demonstrated when his former charges are unleashed on his current ones in a three-match series starting at Ayr on Friday.

The Black Caps' second string have already given a glimpse of what they are all about by amassing the not inconsiderable total of 424-7 from 50 overs in their opening tour match against Kyle Coetzer's Northants two weeks ago.

"It won't be a problem doing our homework," admitted Bradburn who saw his new team square a three-match series with the Netherlands in his first games in charge last month.

"This is certainly a big step-up in class [from the Holland games] because several of the New Zealand guys are already Test players as well as having lots of first-class experience.

"New Zealand cricket is in a pretty healthy state at the moment and they have very good depth. The guys we come up against will be pushing hard for selection for the Black Caps and that will make them even more formidable."

Nor will conditions be particularly foreign to the visitors given that four of them have played in Scotland before, Tom Latham having even had a short, if inauspicious, stint with the Saltires two years ago.

Bradburn added: "They'll feel pretty much at home and, in any case, the climates in the two countries aren't that different - they are used to playing in the cold if that's the way the weather goes."

Having outlined the immediate task facing Scotland, Bradburn, suitably encouraged by early impressions, warmed at the chance to discuss his new team as they embark on an intensive period of preparation for next year's World Cup.

However, that steely interior revealed itself when he stressed that he will be no respecter of reputations.

"Places will have to be earned in the team. It is a big honour to play for Scotland and nobody is going to get the chance without having demonstrated their right to be in there. It really doesn't matter to me if guys are playing for counties or contracted to Cricket Scotland, form and consistency of performance are what count. When you play for your country you have to be at the top of your game.

"We've already had a look at some of our home-grown and up-and-coming talent and I like what I have seen. We need to show ambitious young cricketers that there is a pathway to the national team."

Rather than being frustrated by the availability issues that come with the territory of being Scotland coach, Bradburn sees the absence of a clutch of county players as an opportunity to increase the depth of his player pool.

"It's a chance for others to step forward and show the selectors they can deliver their skills against quality opposition and on a consis- tent basis. Everyone is inspired by the huge programme we have over the next few months [culminating in the World Cup in March] and I think we're going to have fantastic competition for places."

The Scotland squad will be announced tomorrow and, with counties returning to Championship duty next week, there is a chance that Durham's one-day specialist Calum MacLeod could be released along with Warwickshire's Freddie Coleman. However, captain Coetzer and Sussex batsman Matt Machan are likely to be required by their counties, while wicketkeeper Matthew Cross is out with an injured hand.

Away from cricket, the highlight of Bradburn's first month in his adopted country has been taking in the atmosphere of the Commonwealth Games and attending the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox, an experience spoiled only by witnessing the All Blacks losing for the first time. He will have no complaints, though, if his cricketing countrymen suffer a similar fate at Ayr on Friday.

Fixtures: Scotland v New Zealand A

Friday and Sunday, 17 August: Cambusdoon, Ayr

Thursday, 21 August: The Grange, Edinburgh

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