Smith - the man behind Scotland’s strength

The Scots’ historic six-run win against England on Sunday uncovered their bravado but their cricketing infrastructure is not all hunky-dory.

England's Mark Wood congratulates the Scotland team after its loss.   -  Getty Images

After 19 years on the 22 yards, Scotland finally heard its redemption song on Sunday. No, this time, the music didn’t emanate from the bagpipes.

Cricket did the singing as the Scots created history beating the No.1 ranked England in the one-off One Day International in Edinburgh by six runs. The triumph raised a few questions. How did Scotland, an Associate Nation with little experience at the highest level, become so fearless? What is the secret to their strong mindset?

 

Simon Smith, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Scotland Cricket, breaks it down.

The competitive spirit within the side and the challenges of not having a permanent training centre, perhaps, made them dauntless. “It is the feasible sign of all the hard work going on behind the scenes for quite a long time. There has been an improvement throughout the organisation and not just the players. It is nice to have a substantial reward for all the hard work everybody put in,” Smith, who has been designing drills and engaging the players in training activities for the last two years, told Sportstar on Tuesday.

Read: Scotland stuns England in Edinburgh run-fest

Smith feels the players are now used to the challenges of jumping across training grounds. “The mental side and strategies involve perspectives. We don’t have a home ground that belongs to us. Our training facilities are not what one may expect for a Full Member. We needed to be flexible, reactive, proactive and creative to make the best out of it,” he added.

A few days after recording its first ODI win over a Full Member, Zimbabwe, the Scottish cricket team had run into trouble for renting the turf at the George Heriot’s School in the Goldenacre area in the city. They were asked to vacate as the Heriot hockey team needed to practice. “We have a few school and club grounds and we tend to train there whenever they are available. At times, we can’t get into the nets until 6 pm, normally three nights a week,” added Smith.

 

The authorities are trying to create opportunities to train during the day. “There are clubs with indoor facilities which also solves the weather factor. But generally, we are used to such challenges.”

Fitness and speed

Smith stressed on the demands of strength and speed in  today’s cricket. He kept training his boys irrespective of their stamina which worked in their favour. “Better athletes can always get better and the poorer athletes can catch up. We continued improving no matter where the players were. A good foundation physically was going to help them express on the field,” he said.

Also read: England win proves Scotland belong at top level, says Sharif

As Smith thought, the Scotland team gained strength and surpassed the 300 run-mark thrice — 307/9 (against Ireland), 322/6 (against UAE) and 371/5 (against England) this year. It missed out on the World Cup qualification by a whisker.

“We understood the need to become physically fitter, faster and consistent. It was all about conveying the message to the players and provide them inspiration to work hard. We work on our strength and speed and make sure we have an engaging way of training to interest the players and keep them motivated. 

Scotland fans invade the pitch after their team's historic win.   -  Getty Images

 

“We try to keep a nice balance between what we know is absolutely important while also realising that if we keep coming back to doing the same things every day, we are not going to improve,” reasoned Smith, who also batted for Yo-Yo endurance tests.

“We do that. It is a high-intensity activity, quite relevant to cricket.”

As the Scots prepare to take on Pakistan in a two-match T20I series on Tuesday, Smith throws light on the all-round training that helped Scotland warm-up. “There are lots of trunk work. Speed and conditioning are crucial; change of direction work towards the start of session and then, turning a place back for some fielding skills just to ensure you are batting, bowling as well as fielding. Testing is training and training is testing. We had to bridge the gap between the two.”

Smith is hopeful that good show against Pakistan may just fetch Scotland a stable training ground.