From Leith Links to provisional squad for World Cup

Mark Watt
Mark Watt
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Just three seasons ago, Mark Watt was playing cricket for Leith FAB on the Links in the lower reaches of the East Leagues.

Today, a pathway is emerging which could see the teenage left-arm bowler trying to outfox the likes of Australia’s Michael Clarke and New Zealand’s Brendan McCullum on their home pitches when Scotland compete in the World Cup early next year.

By own admission, it is a “whirlwind” rise for Watt, who, at 18, is the youngest player included in a provisional squad of 24 from which Scotland’s final World Cup playing pool of 15 will be chosen.

Even if he fails to make the cut, Watt, who moved from Leith FAB to Heriot’s in order to gain Premiership experience, knows he will be on hand should injuries strike the Scotland squad.

He said: “If I am not chosen for the World Cup then, on January 5, I fly out to the Ben Williams Cricket Academy in the Bay of Plenty along with Carlton’s Haris Aslam and Chayank Gosein as well as Heriot’s player Ryan Brown, and Scott Cameron from Forfarshire.

“It will be an intense three months playing and practising and the latest step on what I hope will be a journey towards a cricket career.”

Watt’s progress is reflected in his selection for the wider World Cup pool but his potential is perhaps best gauged by the fact Cricket Scotland took him out to a batting camp in Dubai last month.

“I bowled loads and loads of overs but I also got a chance to work on my batting with a view to becoming more of an all-rounder,” said Watt, who hit a maiden half century for Heriot’s, against Falkland at Goldenacre last summer.

Watt admits that, in Calum MacLeod, a ready-made role model exists in the current Scotland squad.

“There is nobody better for me to observe than Calum, who was firstly a bowler for Scotland then worked hard to become a front line batsman who can also turn his arm if required. I want to be exactly like him,” he said.

Finishing up yesterday at Edinburgh College where he is undertaking a sports coaching course, Watt said: “The college have been fantastic at helping me chase my dream as have many others including Durham County, who gave me a couple of games for their academy team last season when I managed to score a 50 and take two wickets from a three-over spell.”

The upcoming visit to New Zealand will offer further experience of playing abroad for the lad who toured Sri Lanka with Scotland Under-19s last year then enjoyed a memorable experience at the age group World Cup last winter.

Although the team returned empty-handed from that Dubai trip, they did make a mark in having a crack Indian team standing 22-5 at one stage. “It was the first occasion I’d been in a team environment for a month and when we had the Indians in trouble, pictures were flashing up on the big screen and there was such a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see it through but it showed what we can do.”

It was a huge moment in the development of Watt and Scotland assistant coach Craig Wright, who coached the U-19s, will also be travelling to the World Cup as assistant to head coach Grant Bradburn.

Wright said: “Mark was with us on the recent trip to Dubai and really impressed, as did another youngster, Gavin Main, who we also took along.

“Mark was in Dubai to provide some spin bowling and get a bit of experience for himself. He is certainly one of the up-and-coming spin bowlers we have. The opportunity is there for Mark potentially in this World Cup, if selected, and with the amount of cricket we have coming up in the next couple of years, the same applies to Freddie Coleman, Matthew Cross and others who have come through and are still young.”