The start of the new Scottish cricket season presents somewhat of an unknown challenge to Stoneywood Dyce head coach Jan Stander.
A disjointed 2020 season was adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic but clubs are now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
Stoneywood Dyce open their Eastern Premier League campaign against Meigle at People’s Park tomorrow and then face Falkland a day later in the Scottish Cup, at the same venue.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Stander. “I didn’t really play at all last year because I knew what type of season it was going to be; it was more important the younger guys got time to develop their skills.
“It’s going to be interesting in the sense that there’s not going to be overseas players to rely on as such. We’re probably more of a settled team than some of the other teams in the league.”
— Stoneywood Dyce (@StoneywoodDyce) May 17, 2021
Travel restrictions will have impacted the majority of clubs, some moreso than others when it comes to recruiting overseas amateurs or professionals to ply their trade in Scotland.
Stander takes great pride in Stoneywood Dyce’s development programme, with youth coaching sessions able to start again and a pathway open to players to graduate to the first XI. They intend to field three teams this season, with the seconds in the North-East Championship and a third-string playing in the local grades divisions.
“We’ve always had only amateurs,” said Stander. “For us it probably us it hurts less (not having professionals) while at the same time, we’ve been fortunate to have very good amateurs who have contributed to the team.”
Stander pinpoints the development of David Kidd and captain Jamie King, the team captain this season, and Jack Lambley as reasons to be positive.
“When we play youngsters, we don’t play them at 11. We play them in positions to use them,” said Stander.
“It’s going to be a blend of that and getting some of the old heads back in, to get back where we need to be.”
Lennard Bester, a middle-order batsman, and left-arm spinner Leighton Collins have been drafted in to Stoneywood Dyce, while Stander, a South African-born former Scotland international, hopes to play more this year.
Pre-season friendlies against Aberdeenshire, Stonehaven, Huntly and Aberdeen Grammar have proved useful exercises in preparing for a full season again.
They have also put fears to rest that the shutdown of most sports over the last 12 months would have driven people away from cricket.
Stander added: “I would say we were nervous – golf is the one sport that’s probably benefitted from this whole lockdown situation, because you could play it so much earlier.
“We’ve had a few guys who have taken up golf so for us, there was a nervousness about whether they would come back.
“We’ve had one or two guys who haven’t played for a few years, like David Lamb, who said they’d come back, because it’s nice to get out, socialise and be around people.”
Stoneywood Dyce will be short a wicket-keeper this weekend, with Andrew MacLaren unavailable and Ailsa Lister on Scotland duty. Martin Reid or Sawan Kumar could keep wicket in their absence.