Scotland’s leading run-scorer in One-Day Internationals (ODI) and T20 Internationals (T20I) and someone who has been part of their journey for the last 17 years, Kyle Coetzer has served his team with terrific distinction. Coetzer has had his share of ups and downs with the team, ever since making his debut in 2003, but has weathered the storm and helped in building Scotland into a formidable cricketing side.
In a chat with Cricket.com, the Scotland captain talks about a lot of topics ranging from the disappointment of missing out on the 2019 World Cup, chances of Scotland becoming full members, its financial constraints, his lockdown routine and much more.
You were named the ICC Associate Player of year earlier this year. When you look back on 2019, what were some of the highs and lows of the year - on a personal level and for the team?
It (2019) was a challenging year throughout. I think as a side, we did not perform as well as we may be hoped to have done. We did get some important victories. We won two (one) out of four (three) games (one washed out) against UAE but we didn’t quite play the style of cricket we hoped and didn’t play with a lot of confidence that we usually have.
Did you make any changes in terms of your batting this year? How has Shane Burger helped you out with your batting?
Shane just gives me the support to truck my own game and truck my instincts when I am on the field to play that style of cricket. He hasn’t necessarily changed my style. I am 36 years old now. The older you get, the changes are hard to come by. He is just making sure that we are communicating well together and how we can go out and perform as a team. He has been very supportive and been very good since coming in.
Do you enjoy captaining Scotland? You've captained Scotland at all levels, how would you describe your journey as the leader of the team so far?
I got a young start from Under-15 and I don’t think you really appreciate it till you are further down the line. I was Scotland’s captain before Preston Mommsen took over when I was injured and then I had a brief stint at Northamptonshire and captained a lot in Durham County Cricket Club – in the academy, the second team.
I’ve always been in that picture in terms of who people see as a captain. But I don’t think I ever really developed enough until possibly around 2016-ish. You learn a lot along by yourself along your journey. For me, being captain is more about being the right person to do the job. I certainly made sure I considered a lot more second time around when I got offered to take on the captaincy.
After playing competitive cricket for Scotland for 17 years, what keeps you motivated to keep going?
That’s a very good question. In one way cricket has been my life like it has been for a lot of other people over the years. I came from a family-run club in Aberdeen and developed to play international and county cricket, and some franchise cricket now. I feel like I’ve lot of experiences – some good, some bad. I’ve won numerous titles over the years. For me, it’s about the Scottish cricket team or the organisation in a better place than when I arrived. And try to get Scotland as close as possible to a full-member status, which as an organisation is the next step for us and I have aspirations to play more World Cups – there are a couple on the horizon – a bit uncertain at the moment with this virus going around.
We saw Ireland and Afghanistan attain Test status in 2017. Will we see Scotland too in a similar position in a few years?
We are in a very good position right now of possibly achieving a full-member status. Currently when I say full-member status I don’t know what that’ll mean in a few years’ time in terms of Test matches. Test match cricket is the pinnacle for every traditionalist cricket player and fans of the game. Obviously the game is moving to more white-ball oriented, with T20 being the growth of the game currently. But traditionalists like Test cricket. I can see a stage – rightly or wrongly – where full-member status does not possibly have to include Test matches. Although we as a nation would love to play Test match cricket. But when that does come around, we’ll have to see what that means for us and other teams. No one knows I guess.
A few years ago, Preston Mommsen retired suddenly to pursue an opportunity in the corporate world. Financially, have things improved in Scotland cricket since? Or are players still considering a career outside cricket due to financial reasons?
I can’t remember at the top of my head, I’m sure in the last five or six years, we’ve lost seven to eight players, who would have stood a very good chance of playing high international level cricket for Scotland. They would have currently been within our top 20 players in the country, if not higher. What that does is, one door shuts and another door opens for other people’s opportunities.
Financially, I would say, I don’t think we are any better off. Everyone’s fighting for their cold and trying to increase the money spent on our organisation and our contracts individually, and on grassroots cricket in Scotland. It’s always a challenge and after this Covid-19, it’s continually going to be a challenge again. I don’t think we’ve made any massive jump in terms of financially. This is where finding our major sponsor, who wants to take us to the next World Cup and the following qualifying tournaments for the World Cups we’ve got some real opportunity for some exposure. Scotland has got made some good waves in international cricket over the last couple of years.
Scotland narrowly missed out on a chance to play in the 2019 World Cup. With the World Cup being narrowed down to a 10-team event, it gives very little opportunity for associate nations to compete against some of the big teams. Is that a worrying factor for you and everyone concerned with Cricket Scotland?
Hugely worrying. My motivation is to play in more World Cups and get Cricket Scotland on the world stage as often as possible. The fact that there is going to be only 10 teams is a huge concern. We want to see our team on the world stage, but also want to see other teams – other associate teams – performing and developing at the world stage. If we unfortunately were not to qualify then it would be someone else and we would be supporting them.
Video Courtesy: Cricket Blast 2019 on YouTube
The growth of cricket really needs to be looked at and I think that’s not necessarily playing any red-ball cricket. There’s no red-ball competition for associate teams anymore. The 50-over World Cup is the pinnacle and reducing it to 10 teams is just not right as far as I’m concerned.
Having said that, the win against England in 2018, would have lifted the spirits of the players. What was the atmosphere in the dressing room right after that match? It's not every day you beat the No. 1 ODI side
That was a very special day for all the players and everyone associated with cricket in Scotland. I received messages from people all around the globe congratulating myself and the team and the organisation. That shows how powerful one victory like that is for an associate member. It was big build-up for us. We prepared for about a year out and planned ahead, remolded the style. There’s so much support for associate cricket around the world. There’s going to be more and more teams who’ll improve as we go along.
Video Courtesy: England & Wales Cricket Board on YouTube
Cricket is an amazing sport, it’s got a huge following around the world. It’s phenomenal how much the teams have improved even with huge challenges of lack of facilities. Games like the one against England in 2018, they won’t come around all the time, but they’ll certainly come around more often if we are able to play big games like that.
Looking back at the 2015 World Cup, Scotland had a great chance of winning a few games - against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and even New Zealand. Looking back, is there a sense of regret of not going over the line in at least one of those matches?
There are some really positive things that came out of that World Cup. Ultimately we were hugely disappointed not leaving the group stages with any victory. That was something that we’ve struggled with every time Scotland played in the World Cup. Us getting over the line in the next T20 World Cup in India, which was 2016, that was like getting a knock in that awkward losing issue off our back. Obviously disappointed not taking a victory from 2015 World Cup but if and when the next opportunity comes around, I’m sure we’ll fare pretty well again.
Video Courtesy: Star Sports on YouTube
Our renewed self-confidence and self-belief from our wins over Zimbabwe, England, Sri Lanka are going to hold us in good stead and we’ll turn things around. You can only learn from your mistakes.
With cricket and other sporting activities coming to a standstill, what is your daily routine these days? How have you managed to keep fit during this lockdown?
It has been challenging, but at the same time, it has actually been nice to spend some time at home. We’ve done everything we possibly could do in within the house – from painting to cooking to playing every sport we’ve got equipment for to going on a walk and home schooling. I’ve just tried to stay fit and active. I haven’t got any facilities around our estate. I’ve just tried to stay active. Keeping in touch with family and friends. It’s amazing that because of the pandemic, more people start communicating better with the family. I’ve spent of time with interviews, webinars, podcasts, just trying to learn new stuff and also educate myself.
With ICC qualifying events postponed at least till June 30, it must be a frustrating for you a period in which you were also set to take on New Zealand and Australia in limited-overs fixtures.
I imagine there are a lot of frustrated people within their homes right now in sporting capacity, guess in some work capacity. We are no different. Those games against New Zealand and Australia were huge games coming up for us. It’s disappointing that we’ve had to not play them. The qualifying games always mean a lot to us because ultimately, qualifying for the World Cup is what we want to do as an organization and as a group of players. Every game we don’t play is an opportunity missed to get better. But there’s a silver lining. Maybe we’ll have a good cluster of games when things do resume. We have to wait and see.
Having qualified for the T20 World Cup, how will it affect Scotland if the tournament does not go ahead?
The fact that we’ve qualified takes a bit of that pressure off. It’ll be disappointing if the tournament gets delayed. An element of luck might fall into whether some people are fit and playing as well as they want to when the selection comes around again for the World Cup. If it gets delayed, it’ll get delayed for the right reasons. Everyone’s excited about it. It’s what we play for. If it gets pushed back and hopefully gets pushed back and that the whole world would be a better place and we can put on a good show. That’s what it’s all about. It’s disappointing to delay it, but we know it’s being delayed for the right reasons.
Recently, all member countries received official T20I status. How do you see this move? Do you think it is a step in the right direction to make cricket a global sport?
Yes, 100%. It’s nice for other nations who have been battling away in the lower divisions to get that recognition. Relegations, up and down in those divisions, you’ll see teams emerging and coming through. You just have to look at the story of Afghanistan, and how they went through the ranks and how they developed is an amazing story. I think it’s a great thing for the sport. I hope we see progress and more unity throughout the cricketing world.