MUSCAT: Oman U19 cricket team coach Adeel Shafique is hopeful of his boys gaining lot of experience and match exposure when they tackle the visiting Hong Kong U19 team during the four-match 50-over-a-side series, beginning on Wednesday, at the Oman Cricket Academy ground in Al Amerat.
Ahead of the series, Shafique said:“Such series helps the boys to gain exposure and experience match situations that will do a world of good for these youngsters.”
The first of the four-match series begins on Wednesday while the other three games will be played on Thursday, Sunday and Tuesday.
Shafique added: “I think it is another great opportunity for our boys to showcase their talent. After a brilliant showing in the World Cup qualifiers that took place in October 2022 where we fell just short in the semi-final, I think it’s great that the boys can play some more cricket together as a group.
“After the last tournament, there wasn’t much cricket planned or scheduled for the U19 boys. During the World Cup qualifiers, we had a close game against Hong Kong.There is a mutual respect between both sides and an appreciation that our boys are extremely competitive.”
Shafique, who has spent eight months in Hong Kong before taking up the assignment in Oman, said: “Our close relationship with Hong Kong Crickethas made it possible to convince them to visit Oman for the series.”
The Oman U19 coach said that “plans and talks are in place to have a annual bilateral series in Oman and Hong Kong for the youth team.”
Aditya Gurumukhi has been named the skipper of Oman squad with Tanuj Sivakumar appointed his deputy for the series.
Shafique said: “The boys have been active and have been playing in the league as our current season is going on since September 2022. They have also been playing for their respective schools.They have had a lot of game time which is excellent for preparation. Besides that we have been in camp since the end of November and had a mix of fitness sessions along with practice matches and skills sessions.”
The coach added that‘the boys have been in the middle of exams as most of them are in 12th class.’
He said:“We have been able to find a good balance for the boys to study which is important, and at the same time, practice and play so that they are in good touch. Our boys have performed well in the men’s premier division, with Mohammad Arafat Islam(AER) performing brilliantly in the Oman D10 league. Tanuj Sivakumar (Zawawi Powertech) also had some good performances and Lakshmi Narayana has done well in a few games. All three of them are playing in all formats for their respective Premier Division sides which is beneficial for their development as they are playing with and against current Oman national team players.”
Shafique said: “I am looking forward to seeing some competitive cricket with both sides playing to win.We are going to see some excellent performances throughout the bilateral series. Some of our boys have been involved in the men’s national team practice sessions.The aim is to see some of these boys eventually break into the national team and rub shoulders with them. The series is a great opportunity for our boys to test themselves.”
It may be mentioned that Oman U19 lads had missed out on a place in the Asia Regional Qualifier after going out in the semifinals of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Division 2 –Asia Qualifier at home last October. On the other hand, Hong Kong went on to reach the final before losing to Singapore.
Hong Kong has qualified for the Asia Regional Qualifier and will play the six-nation tournament with one spot at stake for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2024. The Qualifier will be held in the UAE from February 24. Beside Singapore and Hong Kong, the other nations in fray are Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal and hosts UAE.The 14-member Oman squad is supported by Majees Technical Services.
Schedule: February 15: first match, Feb 16: second match, Feb 19: third match, Feb 21: fourth match. Match Start at 9:30am