For the past 15 years, Scotland has been doing its best to keep its head in front of its rivals among the Associate Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Since joining the ICC in 1994, it was among the first to appoint a full-time chief executive, other paid administrators and national coach, and now it has managed to put three of its players on full-time contracts with many others having been retained on part-time commitments.

As a result, Scotland has, for many years now, been at the forefront of Associate cricket. Winners of the ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004 and the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier (then known as the ICC Trophy) in 2005, the Scots had also qualified for the Cricket World Cup 1999 at the qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 1997.

A player to benefit from Scotland's forward thinking is captain Ryan Watson, who is one of the three full-time professionals contracted to Cricket Scotland.

'I am happy at the moment with how cricket is developing in Scotland,' said 32-year-old Watson, a veteran of 27 ODIs.

'I am one of three players to benefit from full-time contracts, which is the first time it's happened in Scotland. We have another 22 players on retainer payments as part-time elite players. We have been incorporated into the Scottish Institute of Sport and they come up with training methods and they help us on the physical side of things. In the past two years we've made a lot of progress in that area.

'We also have eight under-19 players who are doing a college course and playing cricket full-time so we've made some big strides in the past two years and qualification for the World Cup would help speed up that process as it gives us more financial backing to be progressive. That brings with it added pressure for us as we try to keep that momentum going but that is all part of it,' he said.

In an effort to relieve his team of some of that pressure Watson is keen to talk up some of his opponents in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier which takes place in South Africa from 1 to 19 April. Despite Scotland winning this event four years ago in Ireland, Watson maintains that his team is not the clear favourite to take top honours this time around.

'Whether we start as favourites is probably debatable Ireland and Kenya are both ranked above us in the world rankings. I know we won it last time but that was in familiar conditions for us. We are pretty realistic about our chances and although we are confident, I would put the tag of favourite on to the Irish. They have had more success than we have recently in one-day cricket although we have had success against them in the past,' said Watson whose 94 runs in the 2005 final went a long way to securing victory for his side.

'The best way of dealing with the pressure is to go out and enjoy it. Most of us are amateur cricketers so it's not our livelihoods and that helps to reduce the pressure. We are very much looking forward to the tournament.

'Our preparations have all been indoor up to now because the weather in Scotland isn't brilliant. We had a three-day camp down in Loughborough which was fantastic and the guys are ready to get outdoors now. We are going to be in South Africa well in advance of the tournament so that should just cap off the preparations for us nicely.'

Despite Watson's efforts to play down his side's chances, Scotland remains an ambitious side.

'We are pretty confident and we are going out there to win it,' he said. 'We know the main prize at the end of the day is qualification for the World Cup but I think we'd like to go out there with the goal of repeating our success in 2005 and I think if we aim to win it and finish second or third then we still have the prize of qualification.

Scotland (squad): Ryan Watson (captain), Gavin Hamilton, Kyle Coetzer, Neil McCallum, Navdeep Poonia, Qasim Sheikh, Colin Smith, Craig Wright, Jan Stander, John Blain, Dewald Nel, Gordon Goudie, Calum MacLeod, Moneeb Iqbal, Majid Haq.