Meet the U19s - Mitchell Rao
The third member to featue in our 'Meet the U19s' by Gary Heatly is spinner Mitchell Rao.
Mitchell Rao’s family had a love of cricket when he was growing up so it was no surprise that from a young age he was in the nets and out playing matches whenever he could.
And all of those hours spent at Prestwick Cricket Club certainly paid off for Rao because he is currently in Sri Lanka with the rest of the Scotland under-19 squad preparing for the ICC World Cup in Bangladesh.
At his local club Rao progressed from the junior teams into the senior second XI when he was 14 before moving into the first team when he was around 17.
“The time spent in the second XI really helped me because it allowed me to get used to senior cricket and bowling at more experienced batsmen,” the 18-year-old said.
“As a spinner batsmen are always looking to get after you so you learn how to vary your pace and your length just by getting more cricket under your belt.
“I have been lucky enough to play through the age-grades for Scotland and I think it has helped this current group come together and gel by the fact that a few of us have been involved in the same teams as we have grown up.”
The young Scots will face Group A matches against South Africa (January 29), Bangladesh (January 31) and Namibia (February 2) in the main event.
It is a tough schedule, but one which Rao and his fellow spinners are relishing.
The conditions should help the likes of Rao, Ryan Brown and Harris Aslam to extract some spin from the pitches and the trio - and the rest of the bowling unit - are confident after the way they played in the qualifying tournament last year.
Captain Neil Flack has said that having a number of spin options in the team helps a lot and former Prestwick Academy pupil Rao added: “I think the number of spinners we have in the squad is a good thing. We have all shown that we offer something different to the side and pose different questions to the batsmen.
“In the summer I enjoyed bowling in Jersey in the qualifiers and I think the spinners spurred each other on - hopefully we can again in Bangladesh.
“It will obviously be hotter conditions than we are used to and different pitches, but the coaches have told us what to expect and the time spent in Sri Lanka will also help us out.”
Rao mentions the coaches and it is clear from chatting to a number of players in the squad recently just how much Gordon Drummond and Cedric English have done to help the under-19s mould together as a team.
“Their experience makes us feel more at ease and although they have different styles they both want us to go out there and play our natural game and make decisions for ourselves in the middle,” Rao said.
“That gives us great confidence and as we have been training all winter with each other we are really ready to get going now.
“For myself, well I am really pleased and proud to be part of this and we have to make sure that we continue what we have been doing and I am sure we will be fine - it is exciting!”