Muscat: More than 3.5 billion people around the world are expected to watch matches from the upcoming Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, which is jointly hosted by Oman.
Pankaj Khimji, the Chairman of the Oman Cricket Association, speaking to TFM, the radio station of the Times of Oman, said that the World Cup is a chance for Oman to showcase its sporting facilities, as well as the qualities that make it a destination people will look forward to visiting in the future. The tournament is being jointly held by Oman and the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.
“I am still finding it difficult to fathom that we are a World Cup hosting nation,” he said. “The more I think about it, the more I say that this will really put Oman on the global map, at least among the cricketing countries of the world.
“This will showcase Oman as not just a sporting country, but one that has developed so much,” added Khimji. “This is a country whose sporting development has been very much under the radar.
For this particular 23 or 24-day event, that is under four weeks, we are talking about a television audience of 3.5 billion people. That is massive.” Matches for one of the two groups of the preliminary stages of the tournament will be held in Oman, with the other taking place in the UAE.
Each group will consist of four teams, of which two will advance to the tournament proper, called the Super 12. Oman is one of the eight teams involved in this initial round, and the team is set to play its matches at the Amerat Cricket Ground, its home stadium.
This means that Oman is among the first associate level countries to host and play in a Twenty20 World Cup at the same time, Khimji said.
“We are the only associate level nation in the whole of Asia to have qualified. Therefore, this is a huge deal for Oman,” he explained. “We are going to hold something like six to 12 games of the 40-odd games of the tournament. What’s going to happen next is that you are going to have a lot of other cricketing nations taking notice of Oman, both as a stopover for their pre-season and post-season activities, and a lot of Test playing nations who will want to come here and do their pre-season with us.
“It puts Oman on the map for a lot of people who are not aware of the country’s culture, its geographic beauty, its stature, and its proximity to large groups of people who can travel here, so from that perspective, I think it is one of the best opportunities Oman will get to showcase its natural beauty,” he added.
Cricket in Oman has received plenty of encouragement from the government, added Khimji, with a big part of the OCA’s efforts to develop interest in the sport involving introducing the game to more and more schools across the nation, and setting up more grass-root training opportunities.
“We have a fantastic infrastructure, which was facilitated by the late His majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimour, and patronised by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, both of whom have been great supporters of setting up not just sport for youth in Oman, but also of cricket,” he explained.
“We’ve put up some facilities that are among the best for an associate nation in this region, if not the world, and that is going to put us on a higher pedestal than we currently are,” he went on to say.
“Secondly, the fact that the Oman cricket team have qualified for the World Cup, and we are among the top 16 cricketing nations in the world, mean that when I raise my hand to make a point, Oman gets more noticed: this is the second time in a row that we have qualified for this tournament.”
He added that Oman now has the right infrastructure now to host large countries to come here and do pre-season training. About a month and half ago, OCA was on the cusp of hosting an Afghanistan-Zimbabwe-Ireland series, but that did not happen. However, talks are underway to host two well-known countries immediately after the World Cup.