‘Oman Cricket need to progress further’
February 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Clifford Lazarus

Muscat: Cricket is becoming increasingly popular in Oman but the progress of the sport has been extremely slow, according to a former top official of Oman Cricket (OC).

Speaking to Times Sport, Clifford Lazarus, the former general-secretary and founding member of Oman Cricket, said the local governing body has to improve further.  

"The transformation is happening but not to the extent that we expected. Oman Cricket should develop the game from the grassroots level and introduce it at the school level and then take it up in stages. Otherwise it will become stagnant," said Clifford.

Clifford who was one of the pioneers in setting up the Oman Cricket Association (OCA) in 1979 is leaving Oman for good after 39 long years. According to Clifford, there has been little improvement as far as the game is concerned.

"Looking back, the progress has been extremely slow. Cricket was launched in 1975 and it's been 39 years. There has not been much of an improvement. The only good part is that we finally got a turf ground to play the game. There are still many things to do," he said.

Clifford came to Oman in 1975 when the game of cricket was hardly played here. At that time, only the Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO) ground was available to play cricket. It was soon after the OCA was formed that additional grounds were acquired. The University Ground and the Oman Aviation Grounds were also used to play the game.

"Kanak Khimji along with His Highness Sayyid Abbas bin Faisal, who was a keen cricket lover, started the first cricket tournament. It was called the Skanska Cup involving four teams and even at that time, the standard of the game was high," he recalled.

Muscat CT, Sinha Cricket Team, National Bank of Oman and Skanska were the four teams that took part in the tournament.

"Even during those days, we could attract a lot of crowd for each match. It was after judging the success of this tournament that we decided to form the OCA. Kanak Khimji was the man behind it," said Clifford who used to play for Sinha CT.  

In 1982, Clifford became the general-secretary of the OCA. He held the post till 1989.

"In those days, the Pakistan Test team visited Oman and some of the top Indian Test cricketers also visited the country. Some of the Pakistani cricketers also used to play along with the expat players here in many tournaments," he said.

Legendary Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar was a frequent visitor to Oman.

"Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar had also come to Oman. I must say that during those days, cricket was much more active in the country. But full credit should be given to Oman Cricket for improving the standard of the game. Now we have 80 teams playing in the League. That is a great achievement," said Clifford.

Clifford, who was instrumental in setting-up the Muscat Tennis League, also urged the Oman Cricket officials to increase the pool of Omani players in the national teams. "Even in the 80s, we used to encourage the Omanis to play the game. I think it has now paid dividends. We now have more Omani players than in the past but OC still has to increase that pool.  It will only help Oman in the future," he said.

Clifford also praised the OC for its ambitious development plans. "I have come to know that the OC has some great plans for developing the game in this country. I am sure it will help. The UAE has done extremely well and Afghanistan has come a long way. I am sure in the coming years, Oman will also be in that league," he added.

Madhu Jesrani, general-secretary of the OC, thanked Clifford for his contribution towards Oman Cricket. "Clifford's services to Oman Cricket were exemplary. He has done a great job serving the Oman Cricket Association from 1982 to 1989. He was a brilliant cricketer and a lover of all sports. On behalf of the OC, I would like to wholeheartedly thank Clifford," Madhu said.

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