Sport Book of the Week: Scottish story of splendid obscurity

Book of the Week
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Encyclopedia of Scottish Cricket

David W Potter

Empire Publications

pounds 9.99, hardback

WITH A sense of timing that most of their batsmen can only envy, this is everything you might want to know about something of which most Scots know nothing.

Participation in the World Cup will have lifted the profile of cricket north of border marginally and temporarily, but it remains a story of splendid obscurity, which has the advantage of making most of that story new and fresh to the general cricket reader.

Take the Rev James Aitchison, for instance. Claimed as the finest Scots batsmen since the war, despite the rival claims of the likes of Mike Denness and Brian Hardie who made it in county cricket, he once scored a century against Lindwall and Miller in their pomp on the 1956 tour.

Australian tours have, in fact, provided many of Scottish cricket's highlights. Don Bradman's last innings on British soil (123 not out) was in Aberdeen and he usually managed to fit in a few days rest and recreation in Scotland on his various visits to Britain.

There are some tales of heroism in the clubs who have kept the flag flying in some unpromising territory, where cricket is regarded as a game for toffs - and probably English toffs at that - and in villages like Freeuchie in Fife which sustain competitive sides - they won the Village Trophy at Lord's in 1985 - from tiny populations of potential players.

Holidays in Wester Ross have made the Applecross Allstars a personal favourite. Thrown together from the regulars in the Applecross Hotel, they claimed to have won just one game in their first eight years and earned themselves the title of The Worst Cricket Team in Britain.

David Potter, an Elder of Kirkcaldy High Kirk, is as withering as might be expected on the subjects of bad behaviour and drunkenness.

"Sometimes the finger of accusation must be pointed at men who have worn or are currently wearing a Scotland jersey." You might also expect the author to be equally stern about Sunday play. Not a bit of it, despite the reputation of some Scots for being somewhat stringent over the Sabbath. "The so-called Christian Sabbath does not exist," he reveals.

"Anyone attempting to ban cricket on a Sunday would be on distinctly unsound theological ground."

That will come as a relief to them in Applecross, not to mention Elie, on the coast near St Andrews, who play their home games on the beach.

In their first match, the professional for their opponents, Edinburgh Accies, was Nehemiah Perry, now playing in the World Cup for West Indies and an example of the fact that Scottish cricket does not exist in isolation. At any one time, there will be several future Test players learning another strand of their craft in the damp and gathering gloom.

More than that, it is in the Asian populations of Glasgow and Edinburgh that Scottish cricket has its real growth areas. It might not have been what the Rev James Aitchison - did he, I wonder, approve of Sunday play? - had in mind, but it is probably the best guarantee yet of the numbers to keep the game alive