Capital cricketer Mark Watt knows he has to perform if he is to secure a place in Scotland’s World Twenty20 squad.
Watt headed off to Abu Dhabi this week with his Scotland team-mates ahead of a busy couple of months which he hopes will culminate in selection for the World Twenty20 competition in India in March.
Watt, who learned his cricket at Leith FAB but now turns out for CSL Eastern Premiership side Heriot’s, burst on to the full international scene last summer.
He made his full debut in the Twenty20 format against Ireland in Bready last June.
“I was pretty nervous, firstly when I was told I was going to be in the XI and then when I was handed the ball to bowl,” the spinner recounts.
“The Irish team included quality batsmen like Kevin O’Brien so I just tried to concentrate on my bowling and not get overawed by the situation.
“I didn’t do too badly in my four overs, but even just that short spell showed me that you have to be right on the button with every ball at this level or you get punished.”
Scotland won that match by six wickets and Watt, who bowls and bats left handed, went on play three more Twenty20 matches against Ireland and then three in the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Edinburgh.
In his first qualifying appearance against the UAE he took three wickets and then performed well against the Netherlands before coming up against some destructive batting from Afghanistan.
Mohammad Shahzad, who hit 75 off just 36 balls at The Grange, took a real liking for Watt and he milked 41 runs from just two overs.
“Although it was very tough to take at the time that is a day that I will always remember because it taught me a lot about myself as a cricketer,” Watt explained.
“As a bowler in the Twenty20 format you are going to come up against some batsmen who are going to hit you for sixes and fours from time to time, but it is how you bounce back that is key.
“You have to think about every ball and what the batsman is trying to do and I have increased my range of deliveries since then. For the squad to get through the qualifiers and be going to India for the main event this year is something special as was playing in my home city in front of some pretty decent crowds.”
He also made his 50-over debut for Scotland in a nine-wicket win over Nepal last summer and is now ready to really kick on.
After the next few days in Abu Dhabi, Scotland, who are captained by Carlton’s Preston Mommsen, will head to Hong Kong.
There they will play the hosts in a variety of formats with a four-day match starting on January 21, ODIs taking place on January 26 and 28 and then Twenty20s on January 30 and 31.
Watt said: “I have been training hard on a full-time basis in recent months so I feel fitter than I ever have been and the experiences in the last six months or so makes me feel more mature as a cricketer.”
“While we are out here on this tour it will just be great to get out on the grass again and get some overs under my belt while we know the Hong Kong team well and know they will be tough opponents.”
The squad will then return home in February before those lucky players selected for the World Twenty20 will jet out to India for the event in March.
“I know I have to perform well in Hong Kong to make sure I am on the plane to India,” Watt concluded.