The humble Al-Amerat venue, 15km southeast of the Omani city of Muscat, will shortly become the throbbing heart of international cricket on Sunday when the T20 World Cup gets underway.
The chief executive of Oman Cricket – Pankaj Khimji, said according to Star Sports, that this might end up being the third-largest televised sporting event in history, with possible viewers of 3 to 3.5 billion people and that even if Oman only draws a billion viewers to watch the first six games and promotes itself to the Indian subcontinent, it will be a huge success.
The Al-Almerat site’s grass pitches are a far cry from the days when cricket was originally played in the sultanate, sometimes on waste ground by groups hastily created from visiting navy ships.
Oman is participating in the T20 World Cup for the second time, having stunned Ireland in Dharamsala in 2016.
They are ranked 18 in the world and must manage a qualification round that includes Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, and Scotland to qualify for the Super 12 tournament, which is held predominantly in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.
The implications are tremendous even if Oman only hosts six first-round games. Making the second stage will earn Oman a spot in the 2022 T20 World Cup, as well as the honor of competing against India and Pakistan.
Former Sri Lanka Test captain Duleep Mendis is the team’s coach, while the 15-man team is nearly exclusively made up of foreigners, with Sufyan Mehmood being the sole Oman-born player.
Oman’s team has had its highs and lows in recent cricket history– as recently as 2016, they were in Division 5 of the ICC World Cricket League. They gained ODI status in 2019 but were the last group to get a position in the T20 World Cup, which was lost by Covid-19 in Australia and India.
In a sudden-death play-off, they defeated Hong Kong by 12 runs while defending only 134 runs. In six years of international T20 cricket, Oman has lost 19 of 36 games, including two victories against Ireland and a home loss to Qatar in February 2020. They were bowled out for just 24 runs in a home ODI against Scotland in 2019, with six of their batters dismissed for no runs.
Despite the roller coaster ride of their cricket history, Oman has a core of consistent match-winners like Aqib Ilyas, Jatinder Singh, and Bilal Khan, who will be crucial to their success if they are to advance from their pool to the World Cup’s latter stages.