Mommsen says Scots are up for the challenge
From Neil Drysdale
In recent seasons the adopted Scot Preston Mommsen has proved one of the more consistent Caledonian performers in every format of the game, and he is in Dubai with his team-mates, working assiduously in the nets, fine-tuning his fielding, and sharpening up for what promises to be a crucial period for Peter Steindl's squad in the Middle East.
This week offers some warm-up contests against UAE opponents, prior to the main events: a string of tussles with Afghanistan in Twenty20, ODIs and a four-day Intercontinental Cup tie against one of the most improved sides on the Associate circuit. Yet Mommsen can't afford to be intimidated by any adversaries and has shown his usual mixture of professionalism, perfectionism and pride in preparing for the looming tests.
"There is no hiding from the fact that the Afghans are a quality outfit, especially in their home conditions, so whatever happens, it will be challenging," said Mommsen. "We are doing our homework on them and Pete has been very thorough in his planning. We know the significance of these games and the two 50-over fixtures, in particular. We appreciate that they are crucial to our World Cup qualifying chances, but all we can do is take each ball, each over and each innings one at a time. We realise they are a dangerous side, but we also know they will give us opportunities in the matches we play. It's important that we take these chances when we can and impose ourselves on them. They're going to be tough, hard-fought fixtures, but we are up for the challenge."
It isn't an environment for untried individuals, and while there has been debate over the selection of Neil Carter in the Scottish party, Mommsen, normally one of life's sanguine souls, could scarcely have been more animated in his conviction that the former Warwickshire all-rounder, and others in the group, such as Matt Machan and Iain Wardlaw, are exactly the sort of tough-as-teak competitors whose steely qualities will be required when the tourists go into battle in the coming weeks.
"Neil brings with him the huge experience that he has gained from a 15 plus-year career on the [English] county circuit, and he is full of energy around the lads," said Mommsen. "He has been a great addition to the squad and has already been offering sound insight into the plans which we will be looking to employ over the next few weeks.
"It is not only this factor that makes Neil so valuable, but also what he can deliver on the park – he is a dangerous player and a genuine matchwinner. And you can never have too many matchwinners.
"Wardy [the Yorkshire paceman Wardlaw] has settled in well and he brings a new dynamic. You can see that he is a hard worker and his attitude has been outstanding. In common with Neil, he has huge amounts to offer on the pitch and I have no doubt that he will play an important part in the action over the course of the next few weeks."
Steindl's ensemble recognise that there is scant margin for error, such are the wafer-thin margins between reaching the next World Cup in 2015 and sitting on the periphery. Yet, whether it is the infusion of county stalwarts or the new hard edge to the home-grown Scots, one detects that these are men on a mission and aren't contemplating failure.
"We have now had a number of full training sessions at the Dubai Sports Centre, where the facilities have been awesome," said Mommsen. "It is vastly different from the indoor work we do during the winter, so it is good to finally be here and playing on grass surfaces.
"These sessions have been a case of trying to adapt as quickly as we can to the conditions we will be facing when we meet Afghanistan.
"Furthermore, we have had a few solid fielding sessions on the outdoor fields – and it has been a real pleasure being able to dive around again."
Scotland will face a stern examination of their qualities on this winter expedition. Ultimately, though, if everybody in their ranks possesses the same approach as Mommsen, one suspects they won't fall short for want of application or ability.