Interview: Scotland’s Mark Watt
MARK WATT LOOKS TO BUILD ON AN IMPRESSIVE YEAR
It has been quite a start to the international career of Mark Watt. Since making his debut in the T20I series against Ireland last June the slow left-armer has become a regular in the Scotland side, picking up fifteen wickets and a first five-for along the way to Scotland’s World T20 qualification and that historic first major tournament win against Hong Kong.
And all achieved well before his twentieth birthday.
“Yeah, it’s been quite an experience,” he smiled. “Being in India was just amazing. I’d been out to Sri Lanka with the U19s but India was incredible, you can’t believe the interest and passion for the game. Being stopped all the time for photos, getting good luck wishes from everyone wherever you went, it was something else.”
As was Watt’s performance. His four wickets at 18, economy rate of 6.00 and 40% dot ball return was a clear indication of his talent and growing confidence in expressing it. And as the only spinner to feature in all three games, as well as being asked to open the bowling against Afghanistan and Hong Kong, it is a confidence clearly shared by both captain and coach.
So how did he approach the daunting prospect of bowling in his first major tournament?
“I just looked to keep things as tight as possible,” said Watt. “I’m not really a big turner of the ball so I tend to vary how wide I bowl from. The angle I was going for was towards the batsman’s legs, so I would always have fielders at cow corner and long on in place and then just try to vary it, keep the batsman guessing.
“T20 cricket is pretty horrible for the bowler just now with the bats getting bigger and the boundaries getting smaller, so if I can go for six an over and then chuck the ball to someone else, that’s great, job done!”
And what of that trademark delivery position which provoked so much debate in the Twittersphere and elsewhere?
“It’s always been pretty natural for me to be honest. I didn’t really go out of my way to try to create that wide-angle, it just happened. Grant Bradburn was pretty happy, he liked it, because if the ball turned a bit it created problems for the batsman.”
Watt’s statistics in India emphatically point to the difficulties he caused. In a tournament in which the bat often dominated his most expensive over cost eleven runs – his only foray into double figures – but also gave him the satisfaction of a notable scalp.
“Taking Mohammad Shahzad’s wicket [against Afghanistan], that was sweet – he’d hammered me about a bit in the qualifiers at the Grange last year so it was a bit of revenge!” he laughed.
“I’ll always remember Michael Leask’s catch [of Richmond Mutumbami] on the boundary against Zimbabwe too, that was something special.
“But getting that win over Hong Kong was the real highlight. It’s great to finally get that monkey off our back. It’s given us belief. We know we can win at a tournament like this again.”
Whether Scotland gets the opportunity to do so again is, of course, a moot point. The ICC’s decision to put the World T20 onto a four-year cycle and persist with the pre-qualifying ‘first round’, on top of limiting the number of teams allowed into the fifty-over World Cup, will make opportunities to compete on the biggest stage all the more difficult to come by. For a young player at the start of his career the frustration is understandably acute.
“There’s not a lot you can say. We seem to be the only sport in the world that’s going back the way. When you look at the football World Cup you see wee teams beating big teams, causing upsets, so I don’t see why cricket has to be taking a backward step. Preston Mommsen spoke about it brilliantly in India and there’s nothing much more you can add.
“Winning these type of games comes from the experience of winning, from getting yourselves into those positions and finding out what it takes to get over the line. The more cricket we can play at this level the more we’ll be able to prosper from it,” he said.
“It’s pretty frustrating that we’ve not got any big fixtures this season. We’re not playing England or Pakistan. But that’s life for Associate cricket teams.
“You just have to use any opportunities you’re given and do the best you can with them.”
And, as he looks to the summer, Watt is keen to grasp whatever opportunities may come his way.
“This year I’m looking to cement my place in the Scotland first team. I’d like to be a regular in all three types of cricket. Look to get myself up the batting order a bit too.
“In the long run I’d love to play county cricket, maybe in the next year or two. We’ll see how it goes!”
And who would bet against it? As India has so clearly shown, whatever the future may hold for Mark Watt it will surely prove to be a bright one.
Thanks to Cricket Scotland for images