“I got stopped by the police a few months ago,” says Hamza Tahir, rather intriguingly teeing up the start of an anecdote. This one, though, revolves around cricket rather than crime.

“He asked me what I did and I told him I played cricket for Scotland. And he replied, “well, I hope you beat the English one day”.

“Of course, I had to tell them we already had, just a year or so earlier. He seemed surprised. So it just shows you that even a massive win like that still isn’t all that well-known by a lot of people in this country. But we have to keep trying to get cricket out there.”

That victory over the best one-day side in the world in Edinburgh in the summer of 2018 was the undoubted pinnacle of Scottish cricket’s recent renaissance period. Frustratingly for those involved, however, it did not lead to the wished-for surge in wider interest in the game, with football continuing to dominate the Scottish sporting landscape at the expense of everything else.

Opportunity, however, knocks again this summer with both Australia and New Zealand booked to appear at the Grange for a total of three matches. Tahir hopes welcoming that calibre of opponent to Scotland will place cricket back in the spotlight again.

“I watched that England game from the stands and the atmosphere was incredible,” he recalls. “It was a beautiful day and the place was buzzing. So if we can get something like that again this summer it would be amazing.

“Australia and New Zealand are two of the biggest names in world cricket so hopefully the rain stays away, we sell out the Grange for all three matches and maybe cause another upset or two. It’s going to be hard to push cricket more into the mainstream but we have to do all we can to create more of a buzz around the game in Scotland.”

Asian Image:

Every sport needs role models to inspire the next generation and the eclectic nature of the Scotland cricket squad includes players from a number of diverse backgrounds.

The lack of Scots-Asians making the breakthrough in other sports – especially football – has been striking, although Tahir believes that often comes down to cultural pressures rather than anything more sinister.

“I think there are fewer opportunities for Scots from Asian backgrounds,” he says. “But I think that’s down to family issues. I’ve certainly never found racism as a barrier to me trying to progress in cricket.

“Asian families often want their kids to go into a proper career and not focus too much on sport. They want you to go to university and get your degree and then do something on the back of that. It was something I went through, too. I was encouraged to go to uni and I did a civil engineering degree.

“But cricket was what I wanted to do. And when I got my involved my family were supportive and that’s all you can ask for.

“You see how well Kash Farooq is doing and is becoming a role model for Scots-Asian kids wanting to get into boxing. If I could do that for cricket one day then that would be brilliant. You just want to show the young ones what can be achieved if they stick at it, no matter their background.”

Last year was a breakthrough one for Tahir, the spinner who still lives in the family home in Paisley on an estate called, coincidentally, The Wickets.

Having taken his first five-wicket haul against Oman in August, the 24 year-old is eager to be involved in a busy schedule that will conclude this year with the T20 World Cup in Australia.

“I think I finished second-top wicket taker for us in 2019. So I definitely feel more comfortable now at this level. I always felt like I belonged there but it was just about trying to be more consistent with my performances. I’m still looking to improve in every game but it’s getting there.”

- Tickets for the matches against Australia and New Zealand go on sale to the general public on February 3. See www.cricketscotland.com/2020-international-cricket for details