HAVING watched their male counterparts reach back-to-back T20 World Cups both last year and this, the Scotland women’s cricket team now want to experience it for themselves. The Wildcats have never reached a major global tournament but opportunity presents itself once more in the days ahead.

The qualification process for Associates nations – for both genders – is always a long and fraught one and it has been a similar story here. Under former head coach Mark Coles, Scotland topped their European Qualifier in August by winning all four matches. That earned them a place in the final global Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates that begins this weekend where eight teams will battle it out for the final two spots available at next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

Based on the latest T20I rankings, 13th-placed Scotland go into this tournament only as fifth favourites but it is a congested pack. Seven of the teams fill consecutive berths from ninth (Bangladesh) down to 15th (Papua New Guinea), with only the United States, a rising force in the game, further down the pecking order in 27th.

Coles’ tactic before the European Qualifier was to effectively write off his players’ chances, insisting Ireland as a full member nation would prove too strong and that it was more important for Scotland just to enjoy the experience. The New Zealander has since moved on to be replaced by Peter Ross who has returned to the fold after a previous spell working with the team as assistant coach.

Like his predecessor, Ross admits his team goes into the event as outsiders but sees no reason why they can’t put up a decent fight to claim one of the two spots up for grabs.

Scotland head coach Peter Ross

Scotland head coach Peter Ross

“Based on the official rankings we are seeded fifth,” he said. “Sportscotland have given us a goal to try to finish in the top four and I think that’s a good expectation for us.

“But we’re going to go there and try to win every game of cricket that we play. That’s just the mindset that we have to have. In these World Cup qualifying events it just takes a couple of really good games and you find yourselves in the play-off matches for the semi-finals and final.

“If we can get through the group then we’re going to have to beat one of the two teams ranked above us [Ireland and Bangladesh] who are professional teams.

“We’ve been very level with Ireland over the last few years – lost four and won three – so we’re not without hope. I just want us to try to win every game that we can and put some pressure on the teams ranked above us and see how they react.”

Governing bodies always want to talk up women’s sport but not many actually want to fund it. The Wildcats are one of the few teams competing in the UAE who aren’t professional, with players either working day jobs to fund their commitment to cricket alongside a fortunate few who have landed playing gigs in the English county game or The Hundred. Ross, who also works as a performance coach and plays for Heriot’s, admits it’s something that merits detailed examination.

Scotland Womens cricket team

Scotland Women's cricket team

“It would be brilliant if this team could reach a major tournament but there’s also a wider question about the strategy around women’s cricket,” he added. “What I’ve seen in the last few years around the world is that when you invest heavily in women’s sport you get a lot of really good returns.

“So there’s a bigger story about providing more opportunities for female cricketers to move into professional status. Almost every other team at this Qualifier is a professional team. How far are we from having that in Scotland? Good question. I know there are conversations starting around that but there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m just glad it’s at least being spoken about.”

Games for the Scotland women this year have been few and far between. A Commonwealth Games qualifier in January was followed by months of inaction until a recent home series with Ireland that was heavily interrupted by the weather.

Two warm-up games before their opening group match against the USA at least got them back in the groove but the lack of fixtures remains an ongoing frustration.

“It’s good just to be playing some cricket again as it’s been a long summer of waiting,” confirmed Ross, who also helped the women’s under-19 team qualify for their first World Cup recently. “The Ireland series was frustrating in that we didn’t get three full games but it did let me see where we need to improve ahead of this qualifying event.

“I’m excited about this group of players. They’ve waited an awfully long time to get some cricket under their belts and now it’s time for them to show what they can do.”