Mommsen looks ahead to Aussie fixture
From Copy: Neil Drysdale, Images: Donald MacLeod & Ian Potts
Preston Mommsen isn’t one of life’s roaring boys. Come the climax of any cricket contest, you can’t imagine him exciting the tabloids with any outrageous behaviour. Yet there is a quiet steel about the man who has been one of Scotland’s most consistent batsmen thoughout the last few seasons to offer reassurance that he will not be fazed by the prospect of captaining his compatriots when they confront Michael Clarke’s personnel at The Grange in what seems likely to be a sell-out occasion on Tuesday.
Mommsen knows he is only carrying out the skipper’s duties, because of the enforced absence of Kyle Coetzer with a wrist injury. And he has travails of his own with a niggling groin strain which has required careful management and will need rehab once the Scots have completed one of the most important periods of their season with the clash against the baggy-green brigade and a brace of crucial tussles – in terms of striving for automatic World Cup qualification – against Ireland in the latter’s backyard.
Understandably, therefore, Mommsen has sympathy for Coetzer. “It’s a massive blow, both for him personally, and for the side, because Kyle is a quality batsman, one of our most consistent performers, and he has been in excellent form this summer, and fully deserved to get his county cap [at Northants] last week,” said the 25-year-old, who is aiming to improve on an average of just under 20 in his 16 previous ODIs.
“Obviously, we hope he can return for the Ireland games, and he will be missed on Tuesday, but we have a lot of quality in our squad. Hamish Gardiner has demonstrated that he can do well at a high level and we know about the ability of guys such as Richie [Berrington], Calum [MacLeod] and Matt [Machan], to score against good attacks.”
Mommsen, as one might have expected, didn’t make any grandiose predictions about his personnel continuing the Australians’ misery, following their third successive Ashes series defeat. But he recognises that they are in transition and, while Aaron Finch’s spectacular pyrotechnics against England in Thursday’s T20 at the Ageas Bowl provided a timely reminder of the threat posed by the tourists, there is little doubt they are nowhere near the force they were when they pitched into Edinburgh in 2005.
“They are still a relatively new unit, with some pretty young players, and they don’t know each other 100%, so this is probably a good time to be taking them on,” said Mommsen. “We certainly don’t underestimate the scale of the task which is facing us – they are still a world-class team, and they have some wonderfully talented individuals in their squad, and will be firm favourites. But we have analysed them, we believe we can cause them problems, and we will be going out with the attitude that these opportunities do not come along very often, so we have to grab it by the scruff of the neck.
“As much as anything, this is a chance for us to repay the faith the fans have shown in us over the years, and we realise the ground will be packed and the atmosphere will be very different from what we normally experience [on the Scottish club circuit]. So it is important we take the game to them, get the basics right, play the ball not the man when we are batting, and focus on achieved extended periods of quality cricket. A win would do wonders for everybody and would be the ideal preparation for the WCL fixtures. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to concentrating on doing ourselves justice, because we are aware that hasn’t always been the case during the rest of the summer.”
Mommsen was refreshingly candid about his and his adopted country’s displays in a variety of competitions in 2013. These have yielded a string of victories against Kenya, and some decent showings in the YB40. But there have also been other afternoons, where initial promise has withered on the vine, and defeats have been more common than wins.
In which light, it is asking an awful lot of an associate ensemble to overcome the likes of Clarke, David Warner, Shane Watson, George Bailey and Mitchell Johnson.
“We have to be more consistent and not flit in and out of games, as has been the case too often recently,” said Mommsen. “The bottom line is that we didn’t play enough good cricket in the YB40 campaign and we paid the price for not producing our skills for the whole of these matches. We played some good cricket in patches, but we also served up some poor cricket, and the results speak for themselves. I am frustrated by that, and I know the other lads are as well. But this is an opportunity to put things right.
“However, we need to be at 110% for 100 overs. That is the challenge we have set ourselves, but I think we can do it, and we back ourselves to put on a real show.”
Mommsen is a cerebral chap, by no means given to flights of fancy or hyperbole. But he appreciates that a Scottish triumph would be the catalyst for global headlines. His initial goal is to trouble the tourists, and still be in contention after 80 overs. But one suspects he has his sights set on a spot of history-making and is in the right mood to orchestrate it.