Preparations for Oman at the Men’s ICC T20 World Cup has taken such a hold of the Oman Cricket family that even Chairman Pankaj Khimji has decided to postpone his birthday celebrations until after the tournament.
Such is the importance of the event to cricket’s fortunes in the Sultanate nation, Pankaj, speaking pitch-side during the recent T20 between Oman and Sri Lanka at Al Amerat, was in a buoyant mood ahead of Group B action.
“Nothing comes between the World Cup and where we are today. So until the World Cup is over, all celebrations can wait,” he said.
During the interview, the Chairman also expressed his confidence with Oman’s World Cup preparations, both as hosts and competitors.
“We are on track to meet our World Cup deliverables from a project management and development perspective. To see 2,000+ people today in the stands at Al Amerat is testimony to that. We’re about to start putting in seats for the corporate boxes. In all practical terms, we are ready. Also, the way the boys have played against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka recently, I think that we are raring to make a statement at the World Cup,” he stated.
Up until a few month’s ago, the idea of Oman hosting an ICC World Cup event would have been considered ludicrous. However, the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic has delivered an unexpected silver lining; it has necessitated a change of hosts with the T20 World Cup moving from India to UAE and Oman.
However, Oman’s rise as a cricketing nation is no fluke. They have been steadily building up their cricketing pathways and infrastructure over the last 4 decades; courtesy of the hard work put in by the late Kanaksi Khimji. A founding chairman of Oman Cricket Board in 1979, Kanaksi was bestowed with the Lifetime Service Award by the ICC in 2011, for his contributions to the domestic cricket scene.
After his passing in February, Kanaksi’s son Pankaj took over the role as Chairman of Oman Cricket Board. He has vowed to carry on his father’s legacy. Part of that is using the World Cup as a launch pad to sustain the future success of Omani cricket.
“We have so much going for us over the next 12 months. We are playing 4 triangular tournaments; all overseas in Namibia, Papua New Guinea, USA and UAE. So the boys will be doing a fair bit of travelling. And if we play well, if we maintain our lead on the CWCL2 table, we have a chance of qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup in India.”
“If that happens, it will be a big achievement. It’s not for small boys anymore, it is the big boys game. We will be joining the big boy’s league,” Pankaj chuckles.
No matter what happens in the upcoming tournament he is proud of what Oman cricket has already achieved.
“The Oman cricket team has made the country very proud; it has taken Oman into destinations which haven’t quite heard about us. So whoever says that cricket is only a sport, well that’s not quite right. It is a global connector.
“And with Oman cricket, if we achieve a small fraction of our 2040 vision, then we have accomplished something significant and put our cricket into the hearts and minds of people.”
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