IF Gus Mackay were to receive a pound every time he mentioned the word “challenge” then Cricket Scotland would be in a much healthier position.

Lockdown may be easing but the forecast for the sport, both at domestic and international levels, continues to look a mixture of gloomy and uncertain.

There was some good news for the beleaguered Cricket Scotland chief executive with confirmation that the men’s team would resume action shortly for the first time since December 2019 with a pair of one-day internationals away to the Netherlands.

Mackay’s focus, though, is on trying to fill the holes in his budget caused by the absence of international cricket last summer, most notably the enforced cancellation of planned home games against Australia and New Zealand.

Unlike his predecessor, the Zimbabwean now has the option of selling TV and streaming rights to the highest bidder but can only do so if he has matches to offer them.

Big hitters New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India are all due in England this summer and attempts to lure one of those – or even the Auld Enemy themselves – are ongoing, even if the chances are no fans will be allowed into the Grange to watch them.

“From a cricket point of view the past year has definitely set us back, both domestically and internationally,” admitted MacKay.

“Financially it’s also been a challenge. Going into this year we are still going to have challenges with a deficit budget. So we have to be wise and smart. And we have to look at ways that we can recoup some of that lost income.

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“Having no fans at games will be a setback too in terms of gate receipt income if that comes to pass.

“But our priority is just to get cricket going. If we can do that at international level and get broadcaster involvement then that gives us an opportunity.

“The whole broadcast market has changed in recent times with live streaming and all that.

“So we need to find an opponent first and then go into the market and see what those rights are worth, depending on who those games are against.

“There are conversations about that going on all the time. There’s a challenge with Covid and bubbles and going from one area to another.

“But we’re close with England and Ireland and will keep trying to get some of those countries passing through.

“A rematch with England? Well, yeah that’s another fixture. We’d like to do that and will keep trying. We want to be playing against the bigger nations and proving we’re good enough.”

It seems harsh that the Scottish football team can welcome 12000 to Hampden for the Euro 2020 matches while a few hundred would be precluded from attending cricket at the Grange.

“When you hear things like what’s happening with the football it does give us an opportunity to have those discussions,” admitted Mackay.

“But first and foremost we have to secure some international cricket. It might be a year that we don’t have any games but I’m hopeful that we will get some teams coming here.”

Cricket Scotland have survived the pandemic by placing players on furlough and making redundancies, much-needed measures after posting an operating loss for 2020 of £120,000.

“We put a reset plan in place to protect the long-term future of the business and I’m confident we’ve done what we had to do to make sure we’re in a decent position going forward,” added Mackay.

“We’ve had to restructure the way we operate and unfortunately make some redundancies last year.

“That’s what Covid has done. It makes you sit back and reflect on where you are and where you need to get to.”

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Plans to push cricket further into the mainstream have stalled due to the lack of activity over the past year. But Mackay is undeterred.

“I’ve been in this role for 18 months now and been blown away by the enthusiasm and passion for cricket in Scotland. There’s a real desire to make it bigger and better.

“We beat England a few years ago – did we capitalise on that? Maybe not. Could we have done more? Maybe.

“So we have got to raise the profile of the game through our media and marketing.

“I believe we have a squad that can compete at the highest level. And if we keep winning games against bigger nations then that’s how we do it.”