Sunday, August 1, 2021

Maintaining standard of Oman cricket biggest challenge – Pankaj

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Maintaining Oman’s achievements in cricket is the biggest challenge of the Sultanate’s cricket governing body, Oman Cricket (OC), according to board member Pankaj Khimji, who is all set to take over as Asian Cricket Council (ACC) vice-president in two-month time.

Oman have made giant leaps in terms of International Cricket Council world ranking by jumping from earlier 38th position to present 17th and reaching as high as 14th rank in the last three to four years.

Pankaj talked extensively to Oman Daily Observer on the latest status of Oman cricket after becoming the first Omani to be nominated for the vice-president post at the ACC.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What does the ACC post mean to Oman Cricket?

A. This is a great recognition for Oman Cricket and a testimony to what the national team has achieved over the years. It wouldn’t have happened without the whole-hearted support from the Government of Oman in putting in place an integrated facility to develop cricket in the Sultanate.

I will be taking charge during the ACC AGM, most probably in June-July.

Q. What are the plans for national team’s preparation for the upcoming mega event of Twenty20 World Cup India 2021?

A. We were fortunate to complete the Oman Cricket League season this year despite the difficult situation posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. So all of Oman national team players got sufficient match practice in the season.

We hope to stage back-to-back tournaments that will involve ICC Associate member nation teams in Oman in September. The exact picture will be available only after the Associate countries meeting on May 7.

If this is possible the events will be a perfect dress-rehearsal for the ICC T20 World Cup 2021, scheduled to be played in October and November in India.

Oman Cricket plans to convene the national team camp in August ahead of the World Cup.

Q. Any overseas camp planned for the team?

A. As things go according to plan, we might host the double-header tournaments in September and after that we plan to have an overseas camp before the World Cup. The venue will be decided later.

As far as players are concerned we are keeping track of the national team players and they are staying fit with regular exercise routines.

Q. Do you feel the Associate nations are getting sufficient slots in big events like World Cup and Asia Cup?

A. The ICC have specific plans to develop cricket across the world. Already many programmes are in place for the Associate teams to lift their cricketing standards. We have many formats like World Cricket League so that the teams can come up and join the top ranked cricketing nations. Some good examples are Afghanistan and Ireland, who have got the Test status.

Q. As an ACC official what is your vision regarding the growth of the game in Asia?

A. In Asia we have the big five — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Already the standard is world- class and other teams like Hong Kong, Thailand, Oman, UAE and Qatar are putting in hard work to improve their standards.

We have good opportunities in ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup and ACC Asia Cup and other junior tournaments to lift the game in Asia.

Q. After Oman being granted the approval as a Test venue are there any plans to upgrade the facilities further?

A. As of now our facilities at Al Amerat Ground is good. But to host real big tournaments we need to upgrade the existing facilities.

We need much bigger dressing rooms, integrated scoreboards which give all sorts of information and most importantly greater lighting capability.

Nowadays, for TV coverage we need at least 5 to 10 cameras and the TV towers should be there plus the lighting power should be raised considerably. We hope to raise our existing capacity and make the conditions suitable to host big events in coming future.

Q. How is the growth of women’s cricket in Oman?

A. Oman has seen good improvement in terms of women’s cricket. Vaisali Jesrani has spearheaded the national team to good heights. Women’s cricket team has got sponsors also and it shows their improvement over the years.

But again our task is to convince the parents of the young girls (19 to 22 years of age) to continue their career as most girls shift places and universities.

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