AS a New Zealander, Mark Coles knows what it’s like to live in the shadow of the “big brother” next door. It is a mentality that he hopes will come in handy in his new role as the first full-time coach of the Scottish women’s cricket team.

The creation of the post, he hopes, is a sign of intent from Cricket Scotland about how they see the women’s game developing.

Coles already has a wealth of significant experience coaching in the female game overseas, most recently a successful two-year stint in charge of the Pakistan national side.

The former Wellington player is aware that Scotland already has two world-class operators in Kathryn and Sarah Bryce but believes there is scope to unlock the potential in the rest of the squad.

Qualifying for next year’s Commonwealth Games and T20 World Cup are the short-term goals but Coles wants to create an environment where the Scots feel comfortable testing themselves against the game’s elite including Australia, India and, of course, England.

“There is a very clear intent from Cricket Scotland that they want to try to get to the next level and I hope I can be the person to help them do that,” he said from his home on the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

“The ICC [International Cricket Council]’s intentions with women’s cricket are to grow the game and there are countries all over the world with teams now including the likes of Brazil and Uganda.

“You only have to look at a country like Thailand coming from nowhere to reach last year’s World Cup to see what is possible. We want our players to aspire to reach that level too.

“Scottish people and New Zealand people are very similar. We might not speak the same way but we’re nearly always the underdogs. We’re the little brother to Australia just as Scotland is to the Poms [England]. The good thing is that means as countries we always try to punch above our weight.

“The bad thing is there isn’t always that belief you can do it against the bigger nations. So that’s something we’ll look to change.

“I want a mindset that, when we come up against the better teams, we know we can beat them if we play to our best. Nothing should be impossible.”

Last year was a complete write-off for all of Scotland’s international teams, the Wildcats included, who have now seen two proposed trips to La Manga to take on Ireland postponed because of corona concerns.

Coles will, therefore, be inheriting a group of players who won’t have played together competitively for 18 months but hopes that will leave them hungry to get going again.

“The only way the girls are going to improve will be through playing games – you don’t improve in the nets,” he added.

“And if that means we have to play teams who are slightly better than us then that’s a good thing. You progress quicker playing against better opposition.

“So when Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or India come to the UK to play tours against England I want them to come through Scotland.

“Our girls might be on the thick end of a beating at times but how much will they learn? That’s the key. When you’re playing against the best you always lift your game to a standard higher than if you were just playing against a team the equal of you.” 

The Scottish set-up will be a lot different to Coles’ experiences coaching in Pakistan, Vanuatu and his native New Zealand but he believes common themes can be applied regardless of the backdrop.

“It’s just about giving the players confidence and a clear gameplan that they’re comfortable with,” added Coles. 

“If they can retain that belief that they can execute that no matter who’s bowling to them or who they’re bowling to then that’s all you can ask.

“And the most important thing is just to enjoy it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the competitive element that we forget that the reason we all got involved in sport to begin with is to enjoy the challenge.

“In cricket you fail more than you succeed compared to other sports. That’s just the nature of it. But once you learn to accept that, then it’s just about having fun and doing your best.”