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Interview: Majid Haq puts his own spin on Scotland's chances of success in the Middle East

Published on 9 February 2012

It is nearly 10 years since he made his senior Scotland debut, but Majid Haq just keeps bowling along, forever determined to prise out opponents with his mixture of spin and guile, while enhancing his reputation as an effective run-gatherer at the same time.

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Tomorrow, the Clydesdale all-rounder will fly out to the Middle East with his compatriots for an extended sequence of matches, encompassing every format, from a four-day Intercontinental Cup tie with the United Arab Emirates in Sharjah, to a couple of one-day internationals against the same rivals, as the prelude to the World Twenty20 qualifying event in Dubai, where Haq and his colleagues face a gruelling schedule of seven games in eight days.

Not surprisingly, given their home advantage and recent impressive results, Majid regards the UAE as the trickiest possible opponents. "They are a very dangerous side, full of potential match-winners, and are very similar to Afghanistan in the way they play, because they all have natural talent," said Haq, who turns 29 this weekend. "At the same time, they are very unpredictable, and, hopefully, we can catch them on their off days.

"The four-day game is very important, as it's our first match of the season, and the performance we put in will be an indicator of where the team is going this year. All our fixtures are important and we can't afford to prioritise. The two ODIs in March will be huge, in terms of the next World Cup, because the UAE are sitting third in the table, behind ourselves and Ireland, following two impressive defeats of Afghanistan. We will have to be at the top of our form, as Sharjah is a bit of a fortress for them."

The Scots will be missing Kyle Coetzer, otherwise engaged in the Bangladesh Premier League, for next week's four-day tussle, but will otherwise be depending on the raft of talented youngsters, allied to such stalwarts as Haq, Fraser Watts and Gordon Drummond, who combined to produce some terrific displays in 2011. Although the truncated nature of the T20 shoot-out could transform it into a lottery, Haq clearly believes the Scots have sufficient quality to book their passage to the main event.

"I am very confident about the T20 qualifiers, because we will be well into our season and also in top fitness by mid-March, plus we will be welcoming back Coetzer and [Josh] Davey, and the guys will have had plenty of match time," said Haq. "We have a strong batting line-up all the way down the order, with players who are able to score quickly and adapt to different situations.

"In our bowling, we also have some good pace now with [Gordon] Goudie, [Safyaan] Sharif, [Richie] Berrington and Davey and, fingers crossed, Matthew Parker will come back with a bang after a long lay-off. Our fielding is also getting stronger and we have some serious athletes in our ranks with the likes of Berrington, [Calum] MacLeod, [Preston] Mommsen, Goudie and Watts.

"As a spinner, I am loving the thought of getting out there [Sharjah], but I would have liked to have had Ross Lyons and Moneeb Iqbal out there as spinners work best in partnerships, as we have seen [during the Pakistan v England series] with Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman and Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. Hopefully, Mommsen can keep taking wickets, because he was a bit of a golden arm last season, while, myself and Drummo have worked well together and we'll be trying to continue that trend."

The Scots will be away for almost seven weeks, which represents a test both of mental and physical fortitude. Yet they have prepared with a steely determination to do themselves justice and seem ready for any eventuality. "It's a long tour with a lot of high-pressure games, so we need to keep everybody refreshed and relaxed as much as possible and keep the squad fit, healthy and happy," said Haq. "It's a long time away from your loved ones, so we'll have to stick together if we are to be successful."

One suspects that won't be a problem for these ambitious performers. They want to be part of the T20 global circus and Haq embodies their can-do optimism.

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