Oman ready to savour ‘one in a million’ opportunity as host of cricket’s T20 World Cup

Consider cricket-playing nations and the likes of India, Australia and England would possibly come to thoughts. Not a lot Oman, a rustic nestled on the nook of the Arabian Peninsula with restricted historical past relating to purple or white-ball variations of the sport.

However that might be about to alter come Sunday as Oman, alongside the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, is about to host the T20 World Cup.

Initially scheduled to happen in India, it was determined earlier this yr that the match could be moved amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So Oman, which solely constructed its first grass cricket pitch 10 years in the past, provided its providers.

“It is purely a one in one million years alternative,” Pankaj Khimji, chairman of Oman Cricket, tells CNN Sport.

“By no means has an affiliate nation [on the International Cricket Council] hosted a World Cup. And never simply that, has additionally performed in a single concurrently. This can be a huge excessive for us in Oman.”

It wasn’t so way back that the thought of internet hosting a global cricket match would have been unthinkable. There have been a handful of brown pitches with concrete wickets within the middle, certainly one of which was later up to date to astroturf.

Annually, stones and pebbles could be painstakingly faraway from the outfield and sand positioned on the floor. However that hardly made the prospect of diving for a catch any extra interesting.

“You by no means dived,” explains Khimji. “You might get second, third diploma burns from having pores and skin scraped off — it was vicious earth.”

For sure, taking part in circumstances have been dramatically improved forward of Oman’s T20 World Cup opener in opposition to Papua New Guinea on the Al-Amerat Cricket Stadium, situated 18 kilometres exterior the capital of Muscat.

The stadium’s seating — beforehand comprising of 52 park benches shaded below bushes — has been upgraded to a 5,000-seat infrastructure; the venue’s lighting system has been enhanced and a press field and media middle have additionally been added — all within the area of 90 days.

This yr marks the seventh version of the T20 World Cup: 45 matches which run from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14.

Oman will contest a preliminary group that features Papua New Guinea, Scotland and Bangladesh, from which the highest two groups qualify for the Tremendous 12s — the later stage of the match.

Backed by 4,000 dwelling followers at every sport, Khimji is assured that this Omani crew — ” classic” — can qualify for the subsequent spherical. He provides, although, that on-field success is simply a part of the intention.

“If I can put Oman within the minds of the cricketing viewers globally and the way stunning it’s, after which even when one in 50 begin wanting up on the web and say: ‘Hey, what’s occurring in Oman?’ and begin looking out Oman, that itself will likely be a significant accomplishment,” he says.

In keeping with Khimji, soccer, crusing and fishing — which advantages from the nation’s in depth shoreline — are all fashionable in Oman.

The cricket crew, in the meantime, is made up of part-time gamers who steadiness their sporting commitments with nine-to-five jobs.

“Each time they play a match, they need to safe permission from their so-called employers to alleviate them to go on nationwide crew responsibility,” says Khimji.

“Typically, it is a problem. As a rule, these employers have been very, very supportive … A few of them have retained their jobs, a few of them have been placed on a stipend each time they exit to play.”

The pandemic has delayed the launch of a grassroots program in Oman, which might see cricket performed for 4 hours every week in colleges throughout the nation.

As soon as this basis is in place, the standout gamers would then have the prospect to play skilled or semi-professional cricket additional down the road.

However for individuals who will characterize Oman at this yr’s World Cup — virtually all of whom are expat gamers — the rewards will not essentially be monetary.

“In 10 years’ time, they will be telling their kids tales about how their father performed cricket on the World Cup,” says Khimji.

“I feel that is what it is all about now. They’re all taking part in for pleasure, ardour, household, nation, pals. I am very pleased with the bunch.”

Earlier than these tales may be advised, an historic sporting second awaits for Oman because the T20 World Cup is simply the bowl of a ball and the swing of a bat away.

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