OUTSIDE of global competitions, there can’t have been many as important weeks for Scottish cricket as what will unfold over the next 10 days.

While next weekend sees the beginning of the Tri Series in Deventer and Amstelveen against Ireland and hosts Netherlands, today Scotland face England in a one-day international at The Grange, followed by two T20 matches against Pakistan.

According to former Scotland skipper George Salmond, it is an opportunity to be seized upon.

Many would have cast an envious eye across the Irish Sea a few weeks ago as our Celtic cricketing cousins began their Test match history against Pakistan. For Salmond, the coming days will give the Scots a chance to showcase their own credentials.

“There is an element of envy, and of frustration, on my part given where Scotland was 20 or 25 years ago, compared to Ireland today,” Salmond says. “When I was playing, Test cricket or regular international cricket was something of a dream. But Ireland have shown it can become a reality.

“I know enough about the guys who are currently in the Scottish set-up, like Grant Bradburn, like Malcolm Cannon, the chief executive of Cricket Scotland, and the players, to know that they’ll see that as an incentive and something to strive and aim for rather than having any regrets. Leave those to us old fellas,” Salmond laughed.

“It is perfectly within our grasp to become the next full member of the ICC and follow the Irish model. Now that is easy to say, and much needs to happen. But the way Scotland’s first team have been playing, and not just lately, but for a number of years, they are competitive, whether against other Associate members, or full Test-playing nations. And the natural progression has to be Test status. You should be wanting to take yourself to another level.”

While there are similarities between a few decades ago and now, Salmond – Scotland’s first World Cup captain in 1999 – says the standards are better today.

“Back in the 90s, we were playing one-day internationals against touring sides, and, against Ireland, the Netherlands and the likes at our level. What has improved greatly is the

standards within the Associate nations. It is much higher. Today you have the likes of Afghanistan performing to a really high standard, UAE, Zimbabwe – while a Test nation – are still not too far ahead of Scotland. And we can compete with them.

“The frustration is that to be competitive in the England international, and the two against Pakistan, and to be the next taxi on the rank for the ICC, our boys need to be playing these games more regularly, almost as the norm rather than the exception.

“The next few weeks are massive for them. However, it is very difficult to go in against England, or Pakistan, all guns blazing, giving it your all, when you might still be playing to keep your place in the team for the tri-nation series against Ireland and the Netherlands.”

For Salmond, Scotland’s current crop have done a superb job in marketing the game and sport to the wider domestic audience.

“I think the players are deserving of more praise, because it really is quite intense. It’s not as if you have three games every month across the summer or the year. They beat Sri Lanka last year in one of the warm-up games. That is a fantastic effort from a team who don’t play together that regularly.

“The players are hungry for more, and the cricketing fraternity in Scotland are hungry for more, not least because the team really have done a fantastic job of marketing and selling Scottish cricket to a wider audience based entirely on performance.

“Seeing Scotland on TV is a huge advertisement. And in turn, that should attract investment and sponsorship. Scottish cricket is in a very good place just now. Keeping that momentum going however, is key.

“People seemed to buy in to cricket in Ireland far easier than we ever had it. They were helped massively with a couple of performances in the World Cup in 2007. But it showed that group of players what could be achieved, and the next generation wanted part of it, and the generation after that was suddenly sold on cricket as well.

“If ever you are going to make a name or mark for yourself, beating Pakistan and England is right up there. I’m not saying all of Scotland will buy in to what is a great sport if we get results this week, but it could be a great recruiting ground.”

While the clash with England will be everything expected of a sporting joust with the Auld Enemy, Salmond says the games against Pakistan should be something special.

“I played against Pakistan at Titwood, and at Durham in the World Cup. The atmosphere on both occasions was unbelievable, simply because you had so many supporting both nations, almost a unique situation. I’ll never forget Durham where you had guys with Pakistan shirts and kilts. I didn’t have time to watch them though. Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar were distracting me “I also had the good fortune to play with some of the lads who were from the Pakistani community in Scotland, and seldom have you seen players beam and take such pride in playing for Scotland.

“If they couldn’t play for Pakistan, they certainly wanted to play against them – and beat them. I doubt if there is quite an international in world cricket like it.”