Scotland’s best cricketers are in Dubai at the moment playing a number of fixtures and in the squad for the first time is young talent Mitchell Rao.
The former Prestwick Academy pupil was the star of the show as Prestwick won the Western Premier Division and then the National Final against Heriot’s in the summer.
And the 20-year-old spinner, who is at university, has been rewarded with this call-up by head coach Grant Bradburn.
Rao’s family had a love of cricket when he was growing up so it was no surprise that from a young age he was in the nets and out playing matches whenever he could.
At his local club, Prestwick, Rao progressed from the junior teams into the senior second XI when he was 14 before moving into the first team when he was around 17.
“The time spent in the second XI really helped me because it allowed me to get used to senior cricket and bowling at more experienced batsmen,” he said.
“As a spinner batsmen are always looking to get after you so you learn how to vary your pace and your length just by getting more cricket under your belt.
“I have been lucky enough to play through the age-grades for Scotland and then into the development and ‘A’ team and now to get this chance with Scotland is brilliant. It has taken a lot of hard work to get here and I think experiences like the World Cup with the under-19s have made me want to get here even more.
“I have really worked hard over the last year and I must say thanks to my team mates at Prestwick because they were great to play alongside this summer.
“We just kept on battling away and won some tight matches and as things went along we started to believe that we could do it.
“My summer was very busy because I have been in the ‘A’ group with Scotland for a while and during that period we had a number of games down south while I was also playing regional crickets for the Western Warriors.
“All of it helped me move my game on, but especially the multi-day fixtures down south because you bowl long spells an as a spinner you have to always think about the challenge that the next batsman poses while in the county sides we faced there were some good experienced campaigners.”
Along with fellow uncapped players Michael English and Elliot Ruthven, Rao was told a few days before the tour that he would be part of it.
He recounts: “It was amazing to find that out and I can still hear the words of head coach Grant Bradburn as he told me ‘congratulations, you have selected’.
“I don’t know what opportunities will come up for me while we are out in Dubai, but I have to be ready to go if I am called upon and just keep on learning from the experienced players around me and also watch the opposition and how they go about things.
“It is set to be cracking few weeks.”
Scotland, who have added Chris Sole and Stuart Whittingham to the party for the rest of the tour, have had a good start in Dubai with two ODI victories over PNG at the end of last week.
However, the big tests are yet to come with a four day game with old foes Ireland this week and then two World Cricket League Championship clashes with Kenya in which positive results are needed to make sure of getting through to the World Cup qualifiers next year.
Head coach Bradburn said: “The four day game against Ireland will have us absolutely prepared to take on Kenya. We’re not shying away from the fact that there is a lot riding on the last two games, but then again there always is in Associate cricket. I think the world is starting to appreciate that there is no such thing as a dead rubber in the Associate game.
“We are well aware that we need to be playing our best cricket at the end of this tour but it doesn’t take away from the fact that every single game is vital for us.”
Scotland squad in Dubai
Kyle Coetzer (C), Con de Lange (V-C), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross (WK), Michael English, Alasdair Evans, Michael Leask, Calum Macleod, George Munsey, Mitchell Rao, Elliot Ruthven, Safyaan Sharif, Chris Sole, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt, Stuart Whittingham.
Results and fixtures
November 24: Beat PNG in an ODI at the Dubai International Stadium
November 25: Beat PNG in an ODI at the Dubai International Stadium
November 29 to December 2: Scotland v Ireland, Intercontinental Cup at the Dubai International Stadium
December 6: Scotland v Kenya, World Cricket League Championship at the Dubai International Stadium
December 8: Scotland v Kenya, World Cricket League Championship at the Dubai International Stadium
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