Oman’s pacer Bilal Khan makes history

Sports Tuesday 23/April/2024 09:36 AM
By: Times News Service
Oman’s pacer Bilal Khan makes history

MUSCAT: He is fondly known as ‘Billy Gun’. And why not. He is the most potent weapon in Oman’s pace arsenal. Armed with precision and power, he rarely veers off target when he's on his game.

With his toe-crushers, inswinging yorkers, and menacing bouncers, he is now ranked among the elite in the T20I cricket world.

Meet Oman’s pace spearhead, Bilal Khan, who recently achieved a proud milestone for himself and Oman Cricket. The 37-year-old belies his age, with his speed and skills, and became the first and only bowler from the 96 ICC Associate nations to reach the historic 100 wickets mark in the T20 internationals.

Bilal joins an illustrious list of bowlers from across the world as he also became the third joint fastest bowler in the world to achieve the milestone in T20Is.

Bilal’s historic record was achieved on April 15 during the recently concluded ACC Men’s Premier Cup at the Oman Cricket Academy ground.

Bilal’s 100 wickets came in his 72nd match to share the record as the third fastest in the world alongside Ireland’s Mark Adair, who did it in 2023. The exclusive club of quickest bowlers to reach 100 T20I wickets is led by Afghanistan’s spinner Rashid Khan, who reached in just 53 matches while Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga is second, completing his century of wickets in 63 games.

While the top-two in the 100-wicket club are spinners, both Bilal and Adair, are pacers.

The Oman speedster is a crafty left-armer who may not have express pace but his reverse-swinging yorkers during the death overs can rip through any team’s batting lineup.

Among the top-ten fastest bowlers to achieve this record are Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka, 76), Ish Sodhi (New Zealand, 78), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh, 81), Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh, 84), Tim Southee (New Zealand, 84), Shadab Khan (Pakistan, 87), Mitchell Santner (New Zealand, 90) and Adil Rashid (England, 100).

Following the conclusion of the ACC Premier Cup, where Oman lost the final to the UAE, Bilal has garnered a total of 106 wickets in 75 matches.

Having made his Oman T20I debut in 2015, the Peshawar-born Bilal also holds the record of picking maximum wickets at one ground with 42 of his victims accounted at the Oman Cricket Academy ground in Al Amerat.

In his remarks after becoming the fastest and only Associate bowler to reach 100 wickets in T20Is, Bilal said: “First of all, I would like to thank God that I could reach this milestone. I really worked hard and in the past few games of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup was determined and focussed to reach the mark.

“I and satisfied and very happy as I am the first and only Associate bowler to reach this mark. It is a big thing for me.”

The soft-spoken bowler said the key for his success has been “spending hours and hours in the gym and training hard.”

He said: “There is no other way than hard work to succeed and I have been honest with my trainer and physiotherapist. They have helped me a lot in keeping me fit.”

Asked about his most memorable spell in his T20I career, Bilal doesn’t even bat an eyelid to talk about the match that powered Oman to the ICC T20 World Cup.

He said: “It was in 2019 in Dubai during the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier and we were playing against Hong Kong in an elimination match. It was a do-or-die situation, and I picked four wickets as we qualified for the T20 World Cup. I still remember the date, October 30, and the memories are so vivid.

“We batted first and made 134/7 and then restricted Hong Kong to 122/9. My figures were 4-0-23-4 and I had picked two wickets in an over. I had also dismissed the opening batter off the second ball of the match and then got the last to fall wicket in the penultimate over of the match.”

Bilal expressed his gratitude and thanks to Oman head coach Duleep Mendis, his bowling coaches over the years, Aavishkar Salvi of India and Champaka Ramanayake of Sri Lanka.

He said: “Duleep Mendis Sir trusts me a lot and that gives me lot of confidence. I have learnt a lot from Salvi Sir, who worked with me for 3-4 years and now Champaka Sir. I would like to thank Mazhar Saleem Khan, who is like a father and brother. I also owe my success to the strong support of all Oman Cricket board members, the chairman, and Madhubhai (Madhu Jesrani, OC secretary).”

Besides the T20Is, Bilal has also landed few opportunities to play franchise cricket and has impressed there too. He recently finished as the top wicket-taker for Chattogram Challengers, with 15 wickets, in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). He has also had stints at ILT20 and the Afghanistan Premier League in the past.

The latest achievement is yet another feather in the cap of Bilal’s cricket career, who also had the distinction of finishing as the highest wicket-taker in the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division 2 (2019-2023) with 76 wickets in 35 matches.

Bilal’s journey embodies perseverance, dedication, and the unwavering spirit of cricketing excellence, bringing pride and acclaim to Oman Cricket.