World T20 2021 | With an opportunity of one in million years, Oman are ready to rock on home soil

Abhishek Singh

Abhishek Singh

Author| Oct 16, 1:24 PM

PC- Twitter
PC- Twitter

Even if Kanaksi Khimji, the founding father of Oman Cricket and cricket in Oman was to dream, he wouldn’t have dreamt of his tiny nation hosting the biggest spectacle of cricket as soon as 2021. 

Although he is not alive to see it, his son Pankaj Khimji’s hard work, good relations with BCCI and pandemic intervention meant that a team, which got the Associate status of the ICC only in 2014, is now co-hosting a T20 World Cup. 

This meteoric rise of a country, where cricket was played by touring Navys and their sailors on the coasts of the Gulf, is almost second to none. Now, come October 17 and Al Amerat, only 18 KMs away from Muscat would register its name in the history books of cricket as the venue where the inaugural match of T20 World Cup 2021 was played. 

This is going to be the second World Cup for the Omani team which had shocked Ireland in its first-ever World Cup game in 2016. However, it was unable to qualify for the second round due to rain washouts and rain curtailed losses. But after that feat, the Oman team hasn’t looked back as it managed to qualify for this edition of the World Cup as well. 

But inconsistency has been the second name of this team and it haunted them in the qualifiers too. 

Oman's road to T20 World Cup 2021 

When the ICC T20 World Cup 2020 Qualifiers were to begin in UAE in 2019, Oman were coming off a great four-match winning run against established sides like Ireland, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Nepal. It was assumed that they would sweep through the group stages, especially with only Ireland being a comparatively stronger team than Oman. 

The Omani side did do well and lost only to Ireland until the last game when they were beaten by Jersey, a team that made it to Qualifiers through Europe. 

This inconsistency meant that instead of directly booking a place for the T20 World Cup 2020 (now 2021) which they would have courtesy more points than that Ireland’s, they finished on equal points and because of inferior net run rate, had to face Nambia in the semi-finals, having finished second in their group. 

What happened next was even more shocking as they lost to Namibia as well and were left with no other choice but to go into sudden death fellow Asian team Hong Kong fr the final T20 World Cup spot. 

Thanks to a gritty performance they did manage to notch up a 12 run victory defending a total as low as 134 and made it to the World Cup. 

Ever since the World Cup qualification, the men in red have played 15 ODIs against Associate nations and two T20Is against Sri Lanka before jumping into the warm-up games. Out of the 15 ODIs they played against Nepal, the USA, Papua New Guinea, UAE, Namibia and Scotland, the team won 10 of them. But in between those ODIs, it also lost a T20I game to Qatar, once again show its inconsistency. 

While it lost both its games to Sri Lanka, in practice matches against Namibia and Netherlands, it showed its strength and won against the forme, while losing by just four runs against the latter. 

Jatinder, Bilal and Zeeshan: Three wheels of Omani success

Much like PNG, Oman is a team that prides itself on playing with players who have grown together. These are the players which did odd jobs while playing cricket at the same time and were able to make it to the World Cup. The three players who have been like pillars for Oman Cricket and have seen the team going from playing in ICC Cricket World Cup League 5 to being given the ODI status, Jatinder Singh, Bilal Khan and Zeeshan Maqsood form a trio that will be very important for Oman’s progress in the tournament. 

While skipper of the side Maqsood is one of the finest all-rounders going in the Associate circuit with more than 700 runs and 49 wickets in his kitty in both ODIs and T20Is combined, Bilal and Jatinder are responsible for giving explosive states with ball and bat respectively. 

Jatinder to his kitty has more than 1000 runs including an ODI century in 50 games of both formats combined while Bilal has the knock of picking a wicket in the very first over that he bowls. He is one of the few bowlers to have taken four-wicket hauls in consecutive innings in Men’s T20Is. The 33-year-old has to his name 80 international scalps in 54 games. 

The big ambitions

"It's purely a one in a million years opportunity," Pankaj Khimji, chairman of Oman Cricket, was quoted as saying to CNN Sport early this week. But what if that chance is grabbed up and in a precariously open group, they could very well make it to the second stage of the World Cup. 

"Never has an associate country [on the International Cricket Council] hosted a World Cup. And not just that, has also played in one simultaneously. This is a big high for us in Oman,” Khimji added in his interview. 

But what could be even bigger is the fact that the team, which could beat Ireland, could also beat Bangladesh, Scotland and PNG and thereby make it to the Super 12 and that would indeed be historic. 

"In 10 years, they'll be telling their children stories about how their father played cricket at the World Cup,” Khimji said. While that can be a great story no doubt, but that if the fathers also tell their children that they become the first Associate host to also make it to the second stage of the T20 World Cup. All this is at stake. But the bigger question is, do they have in it them to achieve it?

Can they do it?

All that Oman has to do is win against Scotland and PNG even if it is unable to win against a fancied Bangladesh side. With the kind of strength they have and the amount of cricket that they have played off late at home, it shouldn’t be much difficult for Oman to make use of the home advantage and progress to round two. 

Oman T20 World Cup 2021 Squad

Zeeshan Maqsood (c), Aqib Ilyas, Jatinder Singh, Khawar Ali, Mohammad Nadeem, Ayaan Khan, Suraj Kumar, Sandeep Goud, Nester Dhamba, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan, Naseem Khushi, Sufyan Mehmood, Fayyaz Butt, Khurram Khan Nawaz

Fixtures

17 Oct vs Papua New Guinea

19 Oct vs Bangladesh

21 Oct vs Scotland 

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