JUST when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Having spent two decades within the Cricket Scotland system in various roles – player, captain, development officer, marketing manager and assistant coach – Craig Wright walked away from it all in 2016.

Disillusioned by the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), restricting opportunities for Associate nations like Scotland and in need of a fresh challenge, the 194-times capped player called it a day after the T20 World Cup in India.

A chance to coach overseas took him to Hong Kong for two years before he returned to Edinburgh where he has been coaching academy players as well as helping out a former team-mate, Jamie Kerr, with his property business.

The lure of a return to the inner sanctum of the Scottish game, however, has proved too great. And so Wright is now back as assistant to men’s head coach Shane Burger, his enthusiasm restored ahead of a year that could, Covid permitting, be a busy one, concluding with another T20 World Cup in India.

The 46 year-old was correct five years ago to fear the decision to reduce the 50-over World Cup to just 10 teams would cost Scotland – although they came agonisingly close to upsetting the odds.

But he has witnessed breakthrough moments such as a first-ever ODI win over a Full Member side and the memorable home victory over England to feel suitably encouraged that cricket in Scotland has continued to grow despite the ICC’s best attempts to keep them down.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Adam Hall on elite sports protocol confusion, European champ dreams and training on the road

Now he wants to help restore that momentum once cricket in this country gets going again.

“Having had a couple of years away and then coming back, I can say for sure that my passion for Scottish cricket is as strong as ever,” he says.

“This role that suited my skill set came around and it just felt that the stars were aligning. It was the right time to come back in.

“In 2016 we had just come off the back of featuring in two World Cups and the next year to 18 months after that looked really quiet, plus there was the shift to the 10-team 50-over World Cup.

“I just felt that having been involved with Cricket Scotland for so long – and with a period of competition downtime looming – it was the right time to step away and see where my head was at.

“I had intended to take some time away from cricket completely. But then the Hong Kong chance came around out of then blue and it was too good an opportunity to turn down. And it was a fantastic experience.

“But now I’m back and this opportunity has come up at the right time for me, with the squad hopefully heading into a really busy period. And I’m excited to be a part of that again.”

Wright and Burger may be forming a new coaching alliance but the Scot is no stranger to the squad, having worked with many of them prior to his departure five years ago.

He added: “I’ve been involved with this group of players for a long time, the vast majority of them since they were in the youth programme.

“I’ve always had a faith and belief in their ability and we’ve seen that come to the fore in recent times with some of the landmark wins that they’ve had.

“With the qualification process for the 50-over World Cup, in particular, becoming tougher, it’s now about showing that consistency to make sure you get those places that are available for the global events.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Icon Cathy Freeman's Sydney Olympics heroics immortalised in fitting documentary

“With Covid having knocked a year off the programme, there’s a lot of cricket to catch up on. And hopefully we can string together some good runs and start to build momentum again.

South-African born Burger has a vision to make cricket as high-profile in this country as football and Wright, a massive Aberdeen fan, knows only big results and regular appearances at major tournaments will help catch and retain the public’s eye.

“It’s tough as we know that it’s very difficult to compete with football in this country,” added the Paisley-born coach.

“That’s why it’s so important to get access to the global events so that we’re playing on the international stage against the main Full Member countries.

“I’ve been shouting about this since the early 2000s so it’s not a new thing. But the game-changer for cricket for me will be having regular home fixtures against the leading nations and appearing at World Cups. And winning some of those games when they come around.

“We saw the excitement that everyone felt when we beat England in 2018. Even non-cricket fans were talking about that win.

“If the team can keep progressing and pulling off results like that on a more regular basis then I’m sure interest in the sport in Scotland will only grow.”