Scotland’s cricketers headed off to Australia yesterday as their preparations for the World Cup which begins later this month stepped up a gear.
Over the last few days the squad have been involved in various off-field commitments, including meeting first minister Nicola Sturgeon, but when they arrive down under today they will be fully focused on cricket.
They have two warm-up matches, against Ireland on 10 February and the West Indies two days later, both in Sydney, before the real action gets under way against co-hosts New Zealand on 17 February in Dunedin.
Also in Pool A they will take on England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In Scotland’s two World Cup appearances to date – in 1999 and 2007 – they have not won a match, so the current crop will be targeting the Bangladesh and Afghanistan matches this time around to try and put that right.
Before the squad left from Glasgow yesterday morning Colin Neil, president of Cricket Scotland, wished them luck at a farewell breakfast event.
He said: “I believe this is the best prepared side we have ever had going to one of these tournaments. Since qualifying there have been some ups and downs, but the one consistent has been the effort and determination to succeed.
“We are all right behind you, we wish you well, we will cheer your successes, feel your disappointments, but most of all will be proud of what you achieve.”
At the same event, captain Preston Mommsen said: “We’re thrilled to be representing Scotland on the world stage, it’s a huge honour. We’ve been working hard, we feel very well prepared and are looking forward to a great tournament.”
One player who is certainly keen to get started is batsman Freddie Coleman.
Back in 2010, when he was still at Strathallan School, Coleman was called up to the Saltires squad for CB40 matches against Leicestershire, Kent and Nottinghamshire.
He made his debut against the latter in Edinburgh and it was clear from that day that he had a big future in the sport.
Now 23, his love of cricket stemmed from playing the game at Belhaven Hill School in Dunbar and Strathallan as well as Penicuik, and he has played the sport for Scotland through all of the age-grade teams.
From the age of 16 he was a member of the Warwickshire academy in Birmingham and balanced that with school commitments and then his studies at Oxford Brookes University.
He has since gone on to gain a full-time contract at Warwickshire and he believes he learnt a lot about his own game in 2014.
“After the disappointment of missing out on the T20 World Cup at the end of 2013 the Scotland squad really had to turn things around quickly,” Coleman said.
“We knew those performances had not been good enough and we headed into the ODI World Cup qualifiers in early 2014 with a point to prove.
“Losing the first match was far from ideal, but we really upped our game after that and showed what we are really capable of. It was a relief to qualify for the World Cup and from then on we knew we had a year to really build on things and get ourselves ready for the big event.”
Coleman, who contributed well with the bat in those qualifiers in New Zealand and scored 31 in the final against the UAE, has enjoyed working with the current coaching set-up headed up by Kiwi Grant Bradburn.
He said: “Grant has come in and really freshened things up. He has brought in some new coaching techniques and ideas and I think all of the boys have felt the benefit. It has also helped being able to spend time together on various overseas tours in the last 12 months because everyone now knows what their role is in the side and what is expected of them.
“Myself personally, I have batted in every position in the top six in recent times and I just want to contribute wherever I am in the line-up.”
As for the prospect of facing up to the bowling of the likes of Australia’s Mitchell Johnson, England’s James Anderson and New Zealand’s Kyle Mills in the coming weeks, Coleman cannot wait. “We know we are going into the tournament as underdogs, but as an individual and as a team we want to test ourselves against the best. The guys are all buzzing at the moment and we just cannot wait for the competition to get started and to play some good cricket out there.”