Leicestershire CCC all-rounder Rob Taylor knew he would be in for some interesting experiences when taking on an international career with Scotland - and he has not been disappointed.
Taylor has recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, where he featured heavily for Scotland in a busy ICC T20 World Cup Qualifying tournament that featured 72 games inside just 15 days.
His Scotland side finished 7th, narrowly missing out on the final World Cup spot to Netherlands following defeat in the play-offs. Taylor’s attentions now turn to the 50-over format for another qualification competition in New Zealand in January.
He said: “The good thing about going away with Scotland and playing all over the world is you get a number of great experiences. He came across teams with different cultures, and I got to experience all the different conditions. The UAE is very much like the sub-continent so it was good for my overall game.
“I went into the side with a similar role with what I play here at Leicestershire so that was good as I knew how to do that role. I was happy with how I went with the bat, I probably wasn't at my best with the ball but overall I think I had a pretty good tournament.
“I'm off to New Zealand in the new year as we've got 50 over World Cup qualifiers there against similar teams. Ireland and Afghanistan have already qualified so they won't be there. We are looking to finish in the top two to qualify for the World Cup in 2015 so it'll be another good test for us.
“In New Zealand it's all about qualifying - that's the only goal we've got. If we don't come in the top two we don't qualify. It's as simple as that really.”
In the T20 tournament, Taylor’s position in the batting order would experience slight variations depending on differing team line-ups and match scenarios. It outlined the constant need for flexibility in the T20 format, but that is something Taylor is used to from the county circuit.
He said: “I started the tournament batting at five and I quite enjoyed that role - it gave me a bit longer at the crease. But then towards the second half of the tournament we felt we needed an extra batsman so myself and Kyle Coetzer stepped down one so I came back in at six. It was pretty much the role that I play here. It was good to get time in the middle and put in performances, I was pretty happy with my knock against Holland, which was probably my best.”
His individual contributions, which included a man-of-the-match performance in a crucial win against Papua New Guinea played their part in Scotland’s efforts in a tournament that was wide-open from the off.
He said: “The standard varied but all of the teams were competitive. There are four or five sides that are up there similar to county level. Ireland and Afghanistan probably being the top two and then with the other sides, in associate cricket you can't really write anyone off.
“We played Bermuda in our first game and they turned us over so that was a massive shock and a few sides produced upsets so the standard overall is pretty good. Teams have experienced players they can call on. David Hemp played for Bermuda, Papua New Guinea have got Geraint Jones, and Italy have got Gareth Berg.
“So we came across guys who are or have played regular county cricket, which similar to us. You generally find that a few of those teams rely on those guys to come up for them even if they've got talented players in their team as well. They build themselves around those players.”
These factors are what made the tournament an enthralling spectacle, with any team essentially capable of beating one and other and ultimately the reasoning why Scotland missed out.
Taylor said: “We got so close to qualifying and missed out on the last game but the damage had been done in the first few games and that's probably where we missed out. It was frustrating more than disappointing. Had we won a couple of games that we probably should have won then it might have been a different story.
"But Twenty 20 can chuck in an upset in at any point. It takes one performance from one guy on a day and suddenly the game's away from you. For us we'd back ourselves to have come in the top six and we didn't, mainly because of our performances. But for teams like Nepal and Hong Kong who qualified, it's a massive experience for them.”
The quality of opposition he talks of includes Ireland, who were one of the first teams to qualify and ran out eventual champions of the tournament. Leicestershire teammate Niall O’Brien featured in their campaign, and he also played in the recent ICC Intercontinental Cup Final against Afghanistan in Dubai.
He said: “Ireland are a side we look up to. They're probably around five years ahead of where we are at the moment based on their experience and number of county players. If we can get somewhere near to where they are in five years time, I think we'll be a good side.
“They, over the last few years, have had a couple of guys who have been playing for Ireland and have now gone on to play for England, so it shows they've got the talent in their setup. They had a good game against England in the summer where they took them pretty close.
“They've been successful over the last few years and have consistently put in performances, which is what you have got to do if you want to make that step. They have a good case certainly to say that they could take on Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They're definitely bridging the gap between the associate cricket and the internationals.”