Mommsen Ready To Lead Scotland At CWC

31 Jan

As the squad prepare for their Sunday departure, Neil Drysdale spoke to Scotland captain Preston Mommsen on his aspirations for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. 

There was one word which Preston Mommsen used regularly when we spoke on Friday, just 48 hours before the Scotland captain and his squad head off to New Zealand for the 2015 World Cup. It was a little word, but one which exemplifies Mommsen’s mindset and mentality perfectly as he strives to steer his side up the ICC Associate ladder.

The word was “work”.

The skipper isn’t one of life’s flashy characters, nor Flintoff-style extroverts; he is a brooding, cerebral individual who cares deeply about doing his utmost to raise both his and his country’s standards and adheres to the great Gary Player’s adage that the more he practices the luckier he gets. At 27, Mommsen has been part of the Scotland set-up since 2010 and he was one of the integral performers in their qualification for the World Cup with a series of typically tenacious, gritty knocks whenever danger seemed to be lurking.

Yet, from his perspective, that was the easy part of the equation. It will be in the coming weeks when the Scots participate in three warm-up fixtures as the prelude to tackling New Zealand, Australia, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the sport’s premier tournament that Mommsen is determined to demonstrate the improvements which the team has made since they failed to reach the last global festival four years ago. And, as he repeated during our conversation, the best way of demonstrating to the ICC that the World Cup must continue to expand is by his men producing results on the pitch.

“A lot of hard work has brought us to this stage, but it is absolutely crucial that we keep pushing on and never allow ourselves to think that getting to the World Cup is the job half done,” said Mommsen, who has displayed that intensity ever since he was growing up in Durban and being selected for South Africa’s under-19s. “Perhaps there have been occasions in the past where some of the Associates have gone to this event, not really believing they could do anything more than make up the numbers, but that has changed. Of course, we are the underdogs when we take on a Full Member country, but we are not going to get very far by being content with respectability in these matches.

“And if we enter these contests with the right approach, work as a unit, pull together for one another, and push deep into the games, I am convinced we can make a positive impact in New Zealand. It is important, not just for the players, but the whole game in Scotland, because this is one of the few occasions where we are in the global spotlight and that is crucial. If we do well, it is a terrific chance to spread the word about cricket, reach out to the next generation, show people that we are on the rise and attract greater media coverage. We missed that in 2011, no doubt about it. And yes, we had to work hard to qualify for this event. But in the past few months, I have seen the squad grow together and there has been a huge amount of graft to bring us to this point.”

Mommsen’s class has regularly been witnessed by cricket aficionados. He possesses the full repertoire of shots and an ability to mix pragmatism and pyrotechnics during his stays at the crease. So too, he hates losing his wicket and has shown an efficacious mixture of professionalism, perfectionism and pride in preparing for the looming tests. But he isn’t naïve about the scale of the challenge which awaits those flying the Saltire. After all, most of the opponents the Scots will confront seem to have been in the thick of ODI action for the last month, fine-tuning their squads and cranking up momentum, whereas the Scots had to settle for three matches in Dubai in near-empty stadiums and conditions which offered little indication as to what awaits them on their arrival in New Zealand.   

“It seems to be accepted that we can’t be expected to beat the ICC Full Members on a regular basis, but it has happened before and it can happen again,” said Mommsen. “I know it will be difficult because the host countries [Australia and NZ] are both in great form and have lots of quality players who thrive on the ODI scene. I am also anticipating that South Africa and Sri Lanka will be strong and then, of course, there is England.

“But, although we came out on the wrong side against them [in Aberdeen] last year, we were competitive, we gave them a few scares, and that is one of our objectives in the weeks ahead: to play the ball, not the reputation of the bowler delivering it. The match against the English will obviously be huge and I am hoping the crowd in Christchurch get behind us [on February 23], but I have faith in our lads to do themselves justice. They are getting very excited and that’s quite right. After all, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

Mommsen appreciates that these opportunities don’t materialise very often, which is why he stressed the importance of all the associate representatives making their presence felt. But, as he added, cricket is there to be loved and cherished and it would be sad if the capacity for shocks thrown up by these global events was diminished in the future. After all, who will ever forget Kevin O’Brien’s heroics against England four years ago? Or the thrilling manner in which Afghanistan defeated Bangladesh in a limited-overs tussle only last March. Or, for that matter, how agonisingly close the Scots came to beating New Zealand last autumn, eventually falling short of their target by just two runs?

In which light, Mommsen is adamant as to how his compatriots will approach their task when they square up to such formidable rivals as Brendon McCullum and David Warner, James Anderson and Kumar Sangakkara. “We are going into these challenges with a positive mindset and a determination to attack – there is no point in us being defensive or looking for some kind of respectability,” he responded. “We have to trust our skills and use these skills to get ourselves into positions where we can do damage to anybody.

“Naturally, there is going to be pressure in these games, but this is why we are all playing cricket: to be a part of these massive tournaments and we have been preparing for it for months. Now it is time to go out and perform and I know that our boys can’t wait.”

They are not alone. It feels like a long time since the Scots were last involved in the World Cup. But there is a genuine adrenaline rush as we move towards February.

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