By Andrew Ross
At the highest level of all International team sports, countries are always scouring frantically for the upper hand over their rivals, desperate to find that “added something” to create the best team possible.
As a result of this obsession to achieve perfection, International teams, particularly small ones, frequently attempt to tap into other countries’ resources.
By utilising parentage and residency eligibility rules, smaller Countries are able to broaden their radar to a global market, offering foreign fringe players the chance to play at the highest level of sport possible.
In the modern era of sport these options have become increasingly popular for countries like Scotland, who largely because of their population size, are at a distinct disadvantage to larger nations.
But is this option sustainable for the future of Scottish sport, or is it just a quick fix for the short-term?
For years now Scotland has actively used these methods in order to compete against the larger nations, drawing on any resources they can.
There have and always will be doubters of the selection systems in place within Scottish international sport, with the main argument being “these players aren’t actually Scottish”.
Take Brendan Laney’s rugby international berth for example. The New Zealand native was flown in to Scotland just days before making his surprise international debut against his country of birth. It was certainly a hot topic, receiving criticism from several ex-players including Gavin Hastings, and not to mention creating bitterness amongst the squad.
Back then Hasting’s stated “It’s a sad day for Scottish Rugby…. He may be a good player but he is a New Zealander and knows nothing about the Scottish team.”
Laney proved to be an asset for the Scottish team earning twenty caps and scoring 141 points, however the fact remains his selection caused huge controversy because of his nationality.
Fast forward to the present day and an extraordinary example of how Scotland’s cricket team is making full use of recent changes to the eligibility laws.
On the 20th of February Cricket Scotland announced five debutants, all born outwith of Scotland, in a 15 man squad to tour Dubai as part of crucial fifth round of the ICC Intercontinental Cup against Afghanistan.
This meant that a staggering total of 7 out of the 15 players were born out with Scotland’s borders.
This influx of talent is a clear move by Cricket Scotland to draw on the experience and talent that the English county game has to offer and to ideally reach major international tournaments such as the 2015 World Cup.
However it is striking the balance between short term goals, and what could potentially hamper the progress of the sport in the long term.
By fast-tracking these county players into the team so suddenly, others (young Scottish-Born players) have to make way, with potentially detrimental consequences for the development of young players.
Figures published in 2012 show that there are currently 45,000 participants within Scottish cricket, a relatively low number compared to full-members of the ICC. This means cricket within Scotland is still a developing sport, and will be for a number of years to come.
It could be argued that decisions like this could potentially prevent the growth of the all sports through preferring adopted Scots. Obviously in the present team’s want to have the best chance to win tournaments, and will pick the best team possible, but by using the eligibility laws too frequently it could cause a drop in the sport’s popularity.
Perhaps by showing faith in the raw talent of youngsters at an earlier stage could be one way of tackling this issue. By blooding them earlier on in their career to give them that experience at the highest level, the standards in ability will inevitably rise and prove that Scottish-born sportsmen are just as talented as overseas imports.