Cricket: Champions’ captain Fraser still has plenty to play for

Fraser Watts will lead national champions Carlton into the new competitive cricket season this weekend on a high after becoming Scotland’s most capped player during the winter.

When the right hand batsman appeared against Uganda in last month’s Twenty20 World Cup qualifier, it was his 195th appearance, overtaking former Scotland captain Craig Wright. Since then, Watt has gone on to represent his country on another six occasions.

“It was a proud moment especially overtaking somebody like Wrighty,” said Watts. “But hopefully there are a few more innings left in me yet.”

For Watts, whose Carlton team start with a Scottish Cup sectional tie against Poloc at Grange Loan, his 201st cap is the latest stage of a journey that started at South Morningside School.

“I have been fortunate in that my dad (David) has always been keen on cricket having turned out at one stage for Leeds in the Yorkshire League before eventually settling in Edinburgh.

“Dad and the Carlton club got a form of cricket going on at South Morningside and when I was at Boroughmuir High there were a few opportunities to play but my interest continued to be nurtured mainly by the club.

“When I was at Loughborough University a bit of interest was shown in my abilities by Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire but at the time I was being looked at it was clear I wasn’t yet ready for that kind of step. No matter. I have been incredibly fortunate to play so often for Scotland with and against many of the great players.

“Among those facing the likes of (Pakistani fast bowler) Shoab Akhtar stands out as well as Australians Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shaun Tate. To be around the Scotland team, too, when we had Rahul Dravid as our overseas player was a fantastic privilege. Dravid is so technically gifted and such a humble bloke.

“ I was in and out the Scotland team more often in that era and right at the beginning of my career I was fortunate that the coach, Tony Judd, must have seen a bit of potential when he got me involved even just to gain experience working alongside the international team in the nets. Graham Dilley (former England Ashes hero) was another coach who helped me but at the very outset I could see my dad was worth listening to, technically a very good player and that got me up and running.”

So far as the new club scene is concerned, the man whose international debut came as a teenager against Bangladesh in 1998 and whose first appearance for Carlton came two years earlier believes that Carlton have to be braced for the challenge of remaining at the top having ascended that peak for the first time.

“Following our first national league title last year people will be gunning for us and looking to knock us off our perch, not least Grange who have been on a big recruiting drive, I assume because the sight of their cross city rivals winning the league would have sent shivers down the spine of the membership.

“I’m sure there was a mix of disbelief and consternation when we finally delivered what we have been threatening to do for years. Have we woken a sleeping giant?”

New to the Carlton ranks will be overseas amateur Mike Herdman, from Brisbane, as well as Umair Mohammad, John Hutton and coach Toby Bailey. But five of last year’s side have moved on including the experienced Cedric English.

Watts says: “There will be opportunities for some of the younger players we have been bringing through and maybe a mystery acquisition ahead of the Poloc match!”