T20 World Cup – What’s happened since qualifying: Oman

T20 World Cup Oman
T20 World Cup Oman

The most consequential developments for Oman since the team’s qualification for the T20 World Cup have occurred off-field.

In January 2021, the ICC accredited the Oman Cricket Academy (OCA) Ground 1 at Al Amerat for use in Test matches, in addition to ODIs and T20Is. The venue became only the fourth located outside ICC Full Member countries, and the first outside the UAE to be approved as such.

Then, in June 2021, the BCCI and the ICC announced that Oman would co-host the T20 World Cup, owing to the consequences of India’s worsening COVID-19 crisis.

The UAE was the obvious alternative for a single-country solution, having previously hosted the Indian Premier League (IPL), however Oman’s qualification for the tournament, and Al Amerat’s aforementioned new found status as a venue likely made the decision to include the Sultanate easier.

Pankaj Khimji’s elevation to the Vice-Presidency of the Asian Cricket Council where he is working closely with BCCI Secretary Jay Shah also likely opened important channels of communication to enable the decision.

Before March 2020, Oman recorded five wins against the UAE, USA, and Nepal, and a solitary loss against Namibia in successive Cricket World Cup League 2 (CWCL2) tri-series.

The ACC Western Region T20 tournament followed, where a weakened squad beat the Maldives, and Bahrain, but lost to Qatar and failed to make it into the semi-finals.

The suspension of all sporting activities in Oman in April 2020 sent the country’s cricketers into hibernation, and the return of domestic cricket in September was not without controversy.

The country’s two most dominant teams, Assarain and Passage to India (PTI) withdrew from the 2020-2021 season, the latter’s owner, KK Mohandas, citing heavy pandemic-related losses in hospitality as the reason for disbanding PTI altogether.

The key problem for Duleep Mendis and the Oman High Performance team was that fourteen national players represented Assarain and PTI. Not only would they be without domestic sides, their work visas and ability to remain in the country was also in doubt.

However, the clubs’ representatives and Oman Cricket reached a remarkable win-win-win solution, in which Assarain and PTI agreed to sponsor the work visas of the fourteen players, whilst also allowing them to play for other Premier Division teams. Oman Cricket in turn offered all fourteen players contracts ahead of a busy international calendar year.

The national team’s return to on-field action came in August of 2021 with Oman Cricket securing a bilateral series against a strong Mumbai side, including Yashasvi Jaiswal and Armaan Jaffer, ahead of India’s domestic season.

The Omanis won the T20 series, but struggled in the one-day games. Nonetheless, as Pankaj Khimji noted in a recent interview, ‘when you train against a tougher opponent, you learn…the preparation has been excellent.’

And so it has shown in Oman’s most recent CWCL2 encounters against Nepal, the USA, PNG, and Scotland, with only two losses – one each against Nepal and Scotland – in eight matches.

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