Tom Sole, the cricketer from a famous rugby family
Son of Scotland’s Grand Slam-winning captain, the spin bowler is determined to help his side succeed in the upcoming Qualifier event in the UAE, writes Paul Radley
Amid the gloom of Scotland’s dismal display at the Rugby World Cup, the country’s cricketers might be happy they have plenty to keep their minds occupied this week.
They are preparing for their own tilt at playing on the global stage, at the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, via their qualification competition which starts on Sunday.
All will have felt the anguish of the rugby, following the seminal loss to Japan on Sunday. But one in particular might have been feeling grateful he had decided, way back when, to pursue cricket instead of rugby.
On the surface, it was not an obvious call for Tom Sole, given his gene pool.
Older brother Jamie had played rugby professionally, while father David was a Grand Slam-winning captain who led Scotland in their most successful World Cup, the semi-final finish in 1991.
Sole played a little bit, too, even crossing paths with Adam Hastings, another son of a famous father who played at this World Cup in Japan, at times at school. But, he says, there was never any question of him being diverted from his first sporting love.
“It was always cricket for me, even though I enjoyed rugby and played it till I was 16 or 17,” Sole said.
“I always felt, ‘Oh, it’s the summer, it is nice weather.’ I was happier doing that, spending all day outside, than 70 or 80 minutes in the cold and wet, getting hurt.”
And it is not as though he is the odd one out in his family, either. Older brother Chris, though not on tour here in the UAE for this tournament, is a Scotland international, too.
“Dad never put any pressure on any of us to play sport, but he always supported what we wanted to do,” Sole said.
“I think he’s quite glad Chris and I chose cricket compared to rugby, where your career can be four or five years, or it could be less.
“My oldest brother had a season at Newcastle Falcons, got injured twice in his time there, and that was it. One year was his professional rugby career.
“Always at school, people were like, ‘Oh, he’s David Sole’s son, he should be good at rugby’. I didn’t really care. I didn’t care what people thought I should do, I just went and played.”
Now the 23-year-old spin-bowler is forging his own way in a different sport.
He is part of a team who are the highest-ranked side in the Qualifier, and who have designs on sealing a place in the main event straight away by winning their pool in Dubai.
“In the past few years, we have beaten three full-member nations, tied with Zimbabwe in the World Cup Qualifier, and we feel the squad we have now has improved,” Sole said.
“It is exciting. We have been together for a while, everyone knows how each other works, and how to push each other to go further with their cricket. We beat England last year, and I don’t think that was a fluke.”
Injury meant he had to watch that win over an England side that would become world champions a year later from beyond the boundary.
Now he is intent on making memories of his own on the field, contributing to success which he hopes will grow the status of his sport back home.
“There is a following, it is just exposure we have lacked,” said Sole, who took 3-24 against the UAE in Scotland’s opening warm-up match yesterday.
“I think that win against England put us a little bit more on the map, especially against the main Scottish sports of rugby and football.
“Rugby is probably the most accessible sport. Football, everyone likes to think Scotland are great, but they haven’t been to that many World Cups recently.
“It is growing. Hopefully one day soon we will be competing against the best, in the best tournaments in the world, and it will be a known fact that Scotland and cricket go together, in the same way that England goes together with cricket.
“It feels like it is going that way, and hopefully the best is yet to come.”
Tom Sole, son of a rugby pro, has ambitions to make memories of his own as a bowler for Scotland