Photo Credit: Oman Cricket
A confident Oman are all set to compete in the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Men’s Premier Cup – an integral part of ACC’s new pathway structure – that will be held in Nepal from April 18-May 1.
Ten Associate nations will battle it out in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu with the winner securing a direct qualification for the ACC Men’s Asia Cup 2023. The top-three teams at the event will also qualify for the ACC Emerging Cup 2023.
Zeeshan Maqsood will lead the national team and Aqib Ilyas, who makes a return from injury, has been named the vice-captain of the 14-member squad.
The trip to Nepal will serve as the start of a ‘dream mission’ for Team Red as they not only chase a maiden place in the Asia Cup but also prepare themselves for the ICC Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June-July, where they hope to qualify for the World Cup in India later this year.
Oman have never qualified for the Asia Cup and the tournament provides yet another opportunity for them to showcase their potential as a top Asian Associate nation.
Oman have been placed in a tough group that includes hosts Nepal who have also qualified as one of the two teams from Asia for the ICC World Cup Qualifier.
The other teams in Group A include Qatar, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Group B comprises the UAE, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Bahrain and Singapore.
Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood expressed confidence ahead of the team’s departure on Monday.
He said: “We have been preparing hard for the tournament. We have played a few practice matches and the boys are in good shape.
“All the players have been going through rigorous training sessions and the fitness level has been one of the priorities. With the onset of the holy month of Ramadan, the training did affect us but we have managed our sessions. There is no let-up in our energy levels and we are confident that we have the potential to beat any Associate nation team.”
Maqsood, an experienced all-rounder, added: “As we have played in Nepal during the World Cricket League Division 2 campaign, we are aware of the conditions there.”
Oman chief coach Duleep Mendis said: “It’s an opportunity for us to rub shoulders with cricket’s giants, should we win the title. We had performed very well during the World Cricket League Division 2, where we finished second among the seven nations. I am very much optimistic of a good outcome in the tournament.”
He added: “The boys are very well-prepared, keeping in mind both the Asia Cup qualifier and World Cup qualifier. It will be great if we can make to Asia Cup and then take the confidence into the World Cup Qualifier.”
Madhu Jesrani, the long-time manager, who has been with the national team for more than two decades, said: “The team is capable of winning the Asia Cup qualifiers. They have geared up well as lot of hard work has gone into their preparations. We will do well in Nepal and the boys have the support of all cricket lovers of Oman.”
Oman selectors have picked an uncapped Adeel Shafique in the 14-member squad. Shafique qualified to play for the national team recently. The wicket-keeper-batter has been the coach of the Oman U19 squad for the past few years.
Oman have never made it to the Asia Cup finals. The big five teams of the continent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – await the winner of the Premier Cup. Sri Lanka are the defending champions.
If Oman win the Premier Cup, they will join India and Pakistan in Group ‘A’ of the Asia Cup, while Group ‘B’ comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The 2023 Asia Cup, scheduled to be played in September is likely to be played in Pakistan with another overseas venue to host India games. The overseas venue is not confirmed but the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka are among the potential contenders.
Oman have lined up couple of practice matches in Nepal with the first to be played against Bahrain on April 13 and the other against the hosts on April 15.
Oman will begin their campaign against Qatar at Mulpani Ground on April 19 and then play Nepal at TU Ground on April 21. Oman will return to Mulpani Ground on April 23 to meet Malaysia and conclude their group engagements against Saudi Arabia at TU Ground on April 26.
Oman squad: Zeeshan Maqsood (captain), Aaqib Ilyas (vice-captain), Jay Odedera, Kaleemullah, Shoaib Khan, Kashyapkumar Prajapati, Adeel Shafique (wicket-keeper), Jatinder Singh, Mohammad Nadeem, Sandeep Goud, Bilal Khan, Ayaan Khan, Naseem Khushi (wicket-keeper), Fayyaz Butt.
Coaching staff: Duleep Mendis (chief coach), Madhu Jesrani (manager), Mazhar Khan (coach co-ordinator), Evert Laubscher (assistant coach), Avishkar Salvi (bowling coach), Zeeshan Siddiqui (analyst), Sean Nowak (physio).
Oman’s fixtures: April 19: Oman vs Qatar, April 21: Oman vs Nepal, April 23: Oman vs Malaysia, April 26: Oman vs Saudi Arabia.
April 29: Semi-finals, April 30: Third place, May 1: Final.
(All matches will start at 7:45am, Oman time).