Zeeshan Maqsood (c), Aqib Ilyas (vc), Ayaan Khan, Bilal Khan, Fayyaz Butt, Jatinder Singh, Jay Odedera, Kaleemullah, Mohammed Nadeem, Muhammad Naseem Khushi (wk), Kashyap Prajapati, Sandeep Goud, Shoaib Khan, Samay Shrivastava, Suraj Kumar (wk)
With an average squad age of 33.2, Oman are comfortably the oldest side in the World Cup Qualifier. In the tournament lead-up, the players have been training hard in the South African city of Durban to acclimatise themselves to the weather conditions and fine tune their preparations.
However, a lack of recent competitive match practice could be a handicap with the Omanis only playing a handful of fixtures this year. Due to the awkward rescheduling of Cricket World Cup League 2 fixtures necessitated by COVID-19 disruptions, Oman finished their campaign in June 2022, a whole eight months earlier than any of their counterparts. Regardless, they had an excellent tournament finishing 2nd with 44 points (21 W, 13 L and 1 T); although their performances tapered off a bit towards the end with diminishing returns from their star players.
Since then, they have prevailed 2-1 over Canada in a three-match ODI series in November, before an extended international break of 4.5 months. At the ACC Men’s Premier Cup in April 2023, Oman picked up wins over Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to make the knockout stage before succumbing narrowly to UAE in a thrilling semi-final. For the World Cup Qualifier, the Omanis have been drawn in the same group alongside UAE and will be licking their lips at the prospect of avenging their recent loss against the Emiratis.
Oman possesses a highly experienced playing group with as many as eleven players in the squad also featuring in the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Swing bowler extraordinaire Bilal Khan had a fantastic League 2 campaign, topping the charts with 76 wickets at an average of 18.67. His accuracy and reverse swinging yorkers will once again pose a major challenge for batters on Bulawayo’s sluggish surfaces.
Captain Zeeshan Maqsood excelled with both disciplines in League 2 (969 runs at 33.41 and 47 wickets at 23.55); his contributions were highly instrumental in Oman securing an automatic place at the Qualifier. He will be the team’s primary spin option and also provide middle order ballast.
Elsewhere on the batting front, the Arab Gulf nation will rely on hard hitting opener Jatinder Singh to get them off to brisk starts in the Powerplay overs. Singh had a decent CWCL2, racking up 1098 runs at an average of 32.29.
The fielding remains a big concern area however due to the ageing nature of the squad and the lack of fresh faced youngsters. Captain Maqsood and Bilal Khan are both 35, Jatinder is 34, while golden oldies Mohammed Nadeem and wicketkeeper Muhammad Naseem Khushi are 40 years old. At 27, Kashyap Prajapati is the only one in the squad under 30.
Zimbabwe’s sluggish surfaces will suit Oman, however it is still likely to struggle in a tough Group B. A winless campaign and a bottom placed finish is a distinct possibility.
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