Preston Mommsen delighted with his progress in Scotland
Scotland all-rounder Preston Mommsen is thrilled with his progress since swapping South Africa for the Scottish Saltires
Scotland all-rounder Preston Mommsen wants to repay those who have placed their faith in him.
Since the South African arrived on Scottish soil in 2006, Mommsen has been eager to exhibit his talent at the highest level.
This year was Mommsen’s first full season representing the Scottish Saltires in county cricket’s Clydesdale Bank 40.
He scored 408 runs at an average of 58.28 and bowled some impressive spells with his off-spin in the England’s CB40 competition. His performances earned him the Player’s Player Award at Cricket Scotland’s recent end-of-season dinner.
I talk to Preston as he sits in his flat just a stone’s throw from the Grange Cricket Ground in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh’s New Town ““ a place he shares with his Scottish girlfriend, an arts’ graduate called Eleaner.
When I point out that he was the 24th Most Valuable Player in the season’s competition standings, he quickly reminds me that for a while at least he was the most valuable player in the 40-over competition ““ an impressive feat for a Scottish cricketer.
“I was very happy,” Mommsen told The Sport Review. “It was my break through year with Scotland.”
Initially, Mommsen came to Scotland on a sports scholarship at Gordonstoun Private School in Moray. Gordonstoun’s head, a huge cricket fan, saw Mommsen as a way of lifting the first team’s fortunes.
The South African returned to Durban after finishing the two-term scholarship, intending to win a place at provincial side KwaZulu Natal.
But Mommsen, like many other fledgling South African cricketers before him, including Kevin Pietersen, struggled to be recognised on his ability alone.
“I gave it a full crack to win a full time contract with Natal but nothing was forthcoming, so I just thought to myself I did not want to be hanging around questioning whether I should be or should not be deserving a place.
“Obviously there is a lot of politics there,” he says in a nod to the continuing rumours of unofficial racial quota systems in South African cricket – the same system that persuaded Pieterson to turn his back on his own birth country.
Mommsen believes the quota system places a kind of pressure on players that is not present in any other cricketing nation.
Finally, he gave up on South Africa and turned to Cricket Scotland for his break to play at the highest level.
“The first goal I had when I came over was always to qualify for Scotland. If you compare where I would be in South Africa now, I probably would be just breaking into the Natal side.”
It is clear that Mommsen believes that Scotland is where his future lies. At end of the 2011 season he was rewarded with a full-time contract ““ one of only three awarded by the Saltires.
“Here I am, a full-time cricketer, set up nicely with a flat and just enjoying life in Edinburgh with the possibility of travelling the world, which is just awesome.”
From the moment he arrived in the first team he was “very impressed with the work ethic”.
“It is always difficult for Scotland because not many guys are contracted full time. We are all putting in extra hours in the evenings or on a Sunday ““ sometimes even five hours. It is tough for players, with families.”
So what of Scotland’s future? Mommsen is optimistic.
The team will be home for Christmas but will have one eye on the impending ICC T20 World Qualifiers in Dubai in February.
Scotland will compete for one of two places for associated nations at the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in September.
Mommsen admits that Scotland are not the side they once were without Gavin Hamilton, Craig Wright and Neil McCallum.
Yet, it features many young players who do not have the experience of facing full ICC member nations. Only two members of the current side remain from the 2007 World Cup ““ Scotland’s last World Cup appearance.
“We are an inexperienced side but we’re very hungry,” he added. “It would be an amazing experience to travel and play in Sri Lanka.”
If Scotland is successful in qualifying for the Twenty20 tournament, the young side will have every hope of continuing the momentum forward to the 50-over version three years later in 2015.
However, this was an opportunity almost taken away from the ICC associate nations such as Scotland earlier this year. The ICC, in an attempt to reduce the number of matches played, controversially proposed a 50-over World Cup with only the 10 Test playing countries competing.
The decision was met with widespread criticism at every level of the game, which eventually led to the ICC giving up the plan.
Mommsen feels that the idea seemed bizarre when such a competition is supposed to be representative of the world.
“It was very hard to comprehend, “ says Mommsen. “I am just glad the ICC made the logical decision in the end.”
Mommsen points to Ireland’s World Cup robust performances as an example of how associate countries are deserving of a place in competition at the highest level – and he was not surprised Ireland were the most vocal in condemning the proposed revamp.
“The Irish probably had a bit more firepower than us due to what they had done in previous World Cups.
“They had earned their right to be included in future World Cups thanks to their performances.”
“We are aware that Ireland have sneaked ahead of us a bit in recent years. So we are trying to catch up with them and I think we are doing a very good job at that.”
The key to Ireland’s success, Mommsen feels, is the number of players they have been able to play regular county cricket, something Scotland must replicate if they are to taste victory on international stage.
Of the Irish eleven who beat England in Bangalore, eight were contracted to an English county.
“The more players we can get involved in county cricket and county set ups the better.”
Currently, only two of Scotland’s players are contracted with English counties.
Scotland all-rounder Josh Davey, for example, is with Middlesex – but with the county’s permission was allowed to play the whole CB40 competition with Scotland.
This is a sharing agreement that Mommsen feels Scotland can use to their advantage, as Ireland have done with many of their first team.
For, as he says, the loan deal between Scotland and the county works for all parties ““ the county, the player and most importantly, Scotland.
“It makes financial sense too for both parties if the player is shared,” explains Mommsen
Scotland should not be deterred with the progress they have made in recent years. Mommsen believes that wins over Northamptonshire and Warwickshire in the CB40 competition show “how far we have come”.
Furthermore, Scotland’s thrilling triumph over Ireland in July at the Grange demonstrates that the Saltires can compete with their rivals.
“We are now quite disappointed when we don’t win,” says Mommsen. “Every time we beat a county it is massive for us. They have guys who are full time professionals and they should be winning every time against Scotland.”
It is clear that Mommsen feels very much a part of the Scottish set up. Despite only being with the team for a year, he is quick to herald the recent successes and feels eligible to recommend areas where Scotland can improve.
“Scotland have given me a platform and an opportunity, so I would like to pay them back in the best way possible. I’ll be loyal to them as they have certainly been loyal to me.”
It seems that with his adopted country, Scotland, probably feels equally pleased with their exciting discovery.