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'I didn't see a pathway for me in the game'

Preston Mommsen strikes a pose while holding a bat IDI/Getty Images

What has the past week been like for you, seeing the reaction to your decision to retire?
I guess the best way to put it is it has been very mixed emotions. There was a lot of thought to get to that position of actually making the decision, but it's one thing actually thinking about it, and following through is something else. I'm at peace with the decision and I'm happy with it, but at the same time there's obviously a part of me that's going to miss the game and miss representing Scotland and leading the team. I'm only 29 and that's still relatively young in cricketing terms. I know there's quite a bit that I still could have given the game, but it's the decision I've decided to go with.

Are you surprised at all by the reaction that has come through from some quarters, in terms of the magnitude of a national team captain retiring at 29?
I didn't know that so many people would care. It's incredible some of the messages I've received - from all over the world, quite literally. There's quite a few people who care what I've done, although I don't think [what I did was] very much, but they care. I guess they care for what I represented in terms of cricket and the things and values that I stood up for, and hopefully I'll continue to do so, and hopefully all of this isn't in vain. But it's been pleasantly surprising. I was genuinely overwhelmed by the response and the kindness of people's messages.

Was there any one overriding factor in your decision? Many players have stopped playing to pursue other opportunities in the corporate world, but you have spoken of the lack of cricket opportunities.
I can say categorically that this wasn't a financial decision at all. It came down to, as you say, what the job involved. What was there on a day-to-day basis to keep me motivated and keep me driven to want to keep going in the game? I was spending far more time on the training pitch and the nets and the gym than I was in between the stumps. As a professional cricketer, that was very frustrating.

My first central contract with Scotland, we were playing very busy schedules, being part of the CB40 and the Pro40 down in England, which was brilliant for us. That, and being part of their 2nd XI competition, is where I learnt most of my cricket. So the summers were really busy and you were pretty much focused on playing, training, playing, training. There was a bit of structure involved to your summer. As with any job, you need to have that sort of carrot there that motivates you. You need to have that structure. In the last 12 months, certainly, that's not been there and unfortunately that has made my decision easier. I can't see that pathway for me over the next 12-18 months that can keep me in and drive me forward, and that's what has led to my decision.

"What was there on a day-to-day basis to keep me motivated and driven to keep going in the game? I was spending far more time on the training pitch and the nets and the gym than I was in between the stumps"

You once mentioned the opportunities for Associates in Asia with the Asia Cup Qualifier - Afghanistan, Oman, UAE, Hong Kong - and you wondered why Europe couldn't organise something similar among Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland for the chance to play England. Did you feel that was a collective failure of all those European administrators, or of Cricket Scotland, or does the blame lie somewhere else?
I don't know where the blame lies for the lack of proactivity in those sorts of ideas and concepts there. As an outsider looking in, it must look ridiculous that that sort of thing doesn't go on, with Ireland literally a 40-minute flight away, Holland the same. It can't be a financial thing. The opportunities are there and that's the thing that becomes so frustrating for me, especially recently. Not just me, numerous people have spoken up and been very vocal about the lack of playing, the lack of game time, and it's quite literally like you're banging your head against a brick wall, because there's so much talk.

They will have another board meeting, then call another in three months, then another, and nothing is ever achieved. Yes, things are spoken about, yes, they'll throw a little bit of money to try to keep people quiet, but throwing money at the problem is not the issue. There needs to be some proactive leadership, somebody within [the ICC] who's actually going to take control of the game and address this issue. If you look at World Rugby and the way that's run, they have to take inspiration from that. Looking at Japan, the way they've performed recently; Georgia; Argentina; Italy beating South Africa [for first time in history on November 19]. That hasn't just happened. Argentina put their case forward to join the Tri-Nations. There are various ways of doing it.

There has been so much support and enthusiasm surrounding Ireland and Afghanistan that, in some ways, if administrators want to pay lip service to supporting Associate cricket, they draw attention to those two teams. Do you feel that the focus on Ireland and Afghanistan has unfairly crowded out opportunities for Scotland and other Associates?
I wouldn't say it's unfair. I have full respect for what Ireland and Afghanistan have done and what they are continuing to do in world cricket. It is very disheartening, though, that when Afghanistan came over earlier this year we got [only] two days of cricket against them. It was a major thing for us even to get them over [to Scotland], even though they were going to Ireland. From what I understand, it was a last-minute thing. We had to plead for them to come and eventually they agreed to two days of cricket. Then they went to Ireland and played five days of cricket, and then a week later you read in the paper that Ireland are going to India in March to play against Afghanistan [for five ODIs, three T20Is and a four-day match] and you're looking at 12 days of cricket. We're crying out for more than 12 days of cricket in the year.

So that was really like a kick in the stomach. I know they've performed in recent times, but as recent results in the Associate world show, Afghanistan and Ireland have been beaten by numerous Associates in the last 12-18 months. I wouldn't say it's as clear-cut as Ireland and Afghanistan just being the standout top two teams in Associate cricket. Yes, they are at that top sort of level, but on any given day they can lose to other Associate teams, which in itself is a credit to the depth in international cricket. But, for some reason, people aren't interested in exploiting that depth, bringing that depth to the surface and making people aware that it's there.

So the issue for you is that there is parity in terms of results but not parity in terms of opportunities?
You could sum it up like that, yes.

For Scotland, it is not merely a lack of opportunities against Full Members but a lack of opportunities more generally that has had an impact? Yes. My view, in terms of trying to create that structure and that pathway, is that it's important that Associates are put up against Full Members, but I don't think that's the only cricket they should be waiting to play. I think it's vital that they are getting that number of days of cricket in the year so that they are able to experiment, try different things, grow as teams and as individuals, so that every time they do come around to playing a Full Member, they are in a far better position. Waiting every four years to play a Full Member is not the answer; what happens in between the World Cups is important. When you're not being exposed to Full Members in between World Cups and then you go to a World Cup and you're expected to perform and you don't, then it's easy to point at the Associates and say, "You don't belong here."

"It's important that Associates are put up against Full Members, but I don't think that's the only cricket that they should be waiting to play. What happens in between the World Cups is important"

From the 2011 World Cup through qualification to the start of the 2015 World Cup, you had exactly four ODIs against Full Members. Then, since the 2015 World Cup, you haven't had a single match against a Full Member outside of the 2016 World T20. As of now there is nothing in the pipeline either. Qualifying for a ten-team 2019 World Cup is a long shot. You played in the 2015 World Cup at the age of 27 and you theoretically might not get another chance to play a Full Member in an ODI before the 2023 World Cup, by when you would be 35. Did that time gap factor into your decision to quit?
Your stats say it all. Playing on average one a year, and now that you say that we haven't played a single Full Member ODI since the 2015 World Cup, that just makes me feel sick, really. For us, going to the 2015 World Cup was a massive turning point in Scotland's development and we performed respectably. You would think that would be the platform for us to kick on and make use of that experience, but there's not been the infrastructure that has allowed us to do that. For me, at this age, when you've learned your game far better than you had done when you were 22 or 23, you want to be playing as much as possible to maximise all the skills that you have learned. So that has obviously come into it - that I'm not able to capitalise on that at this time because of the lack of actually playing.

It comes back to what we were speaking about at the beginning. In any line of work, you want to see where you're going, you want that pathway, you want those opportunities to be able to prove yourself, develop and kick on to the next level. In work life, you're probably looking for a promotion. It's not much different in cricket. You're looking to prove yourself. As a leader of an emerging nation, there's so many things you want to prove and try and do, but if the pathway and structure isn't there to do it, then you find yourself looking for a career move. Well, in my particular case, that's what happened.

You said you weren't motivated by money. Can you say how much you were making with a Scotland central contract versus how much you'll make with your new job?
The difference is, I know I have career prospects. I can see the pathway for me, the opportunity for me to move in the business within the line of work I'm going into - and the line of work I'm going into is something I'm very passionate about. It is my passion after cricket. It's what I studied, so it does interest me, which is what was attractive about the opportunity. It's a good company I'm going to and there are good career prospects, which is what led me to make the jump, whereas I couldn't see where I would be in two years' time if I carried on playing cricket. As a professional sportsman, you sacrifice quite important years in a business or corporate life. That came into my thinking as well. I didn't want to fall too far behind, so I saw this jump as an investment [of time] into my second career.

What's the thing you'll miss most about playing cricket or representing Scotland?
I think that's it - just representing Scotland. I still can't believe the things that I've been able to do and the things I've done. I'm incredibly grateful to have had all the opportunities. I could never have imagined that I would actually captain Scotland when I moved over here as an 18-year-old. Travelling the world, playing the game you love, I'm obviously going to miss that. There's no question about that. Being part of a team where the improvement is tangible. I joined Scotland in 2010. Come 2014, we hadn't been to a World Cup since 2007 and the progress of the team through that period from 2010 to now is tangible. You can see the skill level. If you take the time to watch, the guys are extremely dynamic now. I'm going to miss that part of it, the high-performance environment.

Over the summer against UAE, you, Kyle Coetzer and Richie Berrington all passed 1000 ODI runs on the same day and you said you had ambitions to be the first Scotland player to reach 2000 ODI runs. What led you to go from that kind of goal to pulling the plug three months later?
Well, how many days of [international] cricket have I played since that day? The answer is two, because I was injured for a [third] game. As a cricketer, there's so much that goes through your mind. There's a lot of worry about what will you do post career and when you're not involved on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis with a team. So just having all that vacant time has forced me to think about things, to gain different perspectives, and ultimately I went exploring. I met as many people as I could to try to get some work experience. That was my initial actual plan, to try and get some work experience while there was quite a bit of downtime. I met the owner of a very good company and she got back to me and said there was an opening and she thought I'd be great for the role. One thing led to the next and it just all made sense to me.

Some people I tell this to think I'm absolutely mad, and I've had to ask myself hundreds of times in the last few weeks before actually making this decision, trying to question myself: "What are you doing? You've worked so hard to get to this point. You've sacrificed so many things, devoted your whole life to becoming a professional cricketer, trying to compete with the best and actually achieving something, getting to that level, getting to a position of leadership of your country." To be willing to sacrifice all of that, I've had to ask myself if I'm being crazy or if I'm just having a bad day. But it really just was clear to me after weeks of thinking that this was the right decision.

Is there anything that Cricket Scotland or the ICC could say or do to change your mind?
I don't want to be pessimistic but, with the timescales for that to be implemented, the way they [the ICC] talk about things and the way they don't actually follow through with the things that have been discussed, I just wouldn't believe that would happen. Hopefully I'm wrong. Hopefully it does happen and guys can benefit from those experiences and being exposed to that sort of cricket, but I just wouldn't believe it if they said that now.

But I do appreciate I wouldn't have gone to a World Cup or two World Cups and had this career if it wasn't for the ICC and what they do. But from my experiences and being involved and being exposed to Associate cricket and Full Member cricket, I can see so much potential in the Associates and it just frustrates me that other people don't see that as an opportunity for the game to grow.

When you say other people, what or who do you mean?
The people who govern the game.

"Numerous people have been very vocal about the lack of playing, and it's like you're banging your head against a brick wall. They will have another board meeting, then call another in three months, then another, and nothing is ever achieved"

So regardless of the broadcast interests and financial implications, you feel it is incumbent upon the governors of the game to legislate or mandate opportunities for Associate teams for the good of the game, regardless of what a TV rights bidder may say?
Yes. I know at the end of the day it comes down to money. I don't know the exact numbers, but I know there's a lot of money floating around. Everyone knows that. If they could just allocate those resources slightly better, slightly more efficiently, I think that would go a long way to increase the speed of development within these nations. As I've said previously, it's not just throwing sums of money. It's creating schedules, it's creating structures, development programmes that are actually beneficial.

You've had an impressive career - you were the ICC's Associate Player of the Year for 2014, you led Scotland to a World Cup, a World T20 and a first victory at a major ICC event, but do you feel you might be more famous or gain more notoriety for the manner of your retirement than for your career?
Hopefully not. I genuinely didn't think this would have much bearing. I knew that there would be some questions asked, but I didn't think to this extent.

I think it's been pleasing that the responses I've had, 90% of them are regarding my efforts for Scotland on the pitch, off the pitch and as a leader, which is hugely satisfying. I'm very grateful for those messages. It makes me very happy that people have recognised that I've given a huge amount to Scottish cricket, and I hope to do so in the future from an off-the-field point of view. But, of course, people have also recognised the fact that I have spoken out and my doing this is, I guess, a form of speaking out. But hopefully I will be remembered for what I did on the field when representing Scotland.