Scotland couldn’t be in a better place heading into T20 World Cup

IF form counts for anything heading into a major tournament then Scotland could hardly be in a better place.

Shane Burger and his players open their T20 World Cup campaign against Bangladesh this afternoon looking to build on a scorching stretch that has delivered six wins from seven completed games since they arrived in the Middle East last month.

Granted, some of those were friendly warm-ups while a few others were played over 50 overs but, regardless, there is little doubt that nothing enhances a squad’s mood and confidence more than victories.

Their opening first round encounter will be their trickiest challenge yet against a Bangladesh side now ranked sixth in the world and with recent series wins over New Zealand and Australia tucked under their belt.

But with Papua New Guinea and hosts Oman to follow, there is a growing expectation that Scotland ought to be able to claim one of the two places through to the Super 12 phase and a rendezvous with the big boys.

Burger, to his credit, does not shy away from that feeling either.

“I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t one of the favourites to qualify, because of our history and the players that we have,” says the South African-born head coach.

“We should qualify and that’s pressure in itself. But there’s nothing in life that’s certain. We have to go there and win those big pressure moments. You have to get a little bit lucky too at times and you also have to back yourself.

“If we can play the sort of cricket we know we can play, stick to our processes, genuinely believe in ourselves as a unit, and connect, then we can go out there and do anything as a group. It’s going to be tough, we know that. But we know we can get through it.

“There’s always pressure but it’s what you make of it. It’s whether you embrace it or shy away from it. I thoroughly enjoy being under pressure and actually thrive under it. As a player you almost looked forward to it. But I get more of a rush out of coaching than I ever did out of playing.”

Should they make it out of the first round to set up dates with the likes of Australia, India, England or Pakistan, Scottish expectation will then shrink dramatically.

Burger, though, is a scrapper and doesn’t accept that merely getting to the Super 12s would represent a job done.

“We’ve set the bar really high,” he adds. “It’s not just about getting into round two, it’s about getting into round two and doing something special. We know we have the right group of players and support staff to do that.

“The players have been on a good trajectory and appear to be peaking at the right time. That’s something we’ve spoken about quite a bit with them. Are we going to win the World Cup? Well, we’re allowed to dream. I told the players that. If you’re not allowed to dream, then what are you allowed to do?

“It all depends on your own personal levels and your own standards. We as a unit believe we can do something special, whatever that means. That’s up to other people to decide for themselves but we as a group know what that means to us. We’re here to create great memories and so far so good.”

The only black mark on the Scottish chart was the home series defeat to Zimbabwe last month when the Saltires took the first game at the Grange but buckled from strong positions to lose the next two.

Ahead of a meeting with another full member side in Bangladesh, Burger knows his team will need to do better in the big moments this afternoon.

“I firmly believe we should have won that series 3-0 and I don’t say that in an arrogant way,” adds the former all-rounder. “The reason we lost those two games against them was because we lost the big pressure moments. That was maybe down to a lack of cricket at that time. But we will use that as motivation and as a learning experience ahead of this tournament.”

Whoever ends up winning this World Cup will claim a prize pot of $1.6m as well as a big trophy. In the unlikely event that both of those end up in Scottish hands, Burger has a plan in place for his share of the loot.

“Pressure doesn’t help the stress levels or the ageing process, I can promise you that,” he adds. “It’s not good for the hairline either!

“If we go on and win the World Cup I’ll definitely be investing in a drop-in wicket (hair transplant) at the top there! That’s something I’ve promised the players.”

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