Muscat: Impressed with the ‘players commitment’ and ‘team spirit’, Oman bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake is expecting the Sultanate squad to produce more surprises and achieve more success in the upcoming Asia Cup Twenty20 in Bangladesh and ICC World T20 Championship in India.
Rumesh, who arrived here on Sunday for his third stint as Oman's bowling coach, is in fact delighted with the overall improvement of Duleep Mendis-coached Oman squad, especially on the fitness front, as well as the bowlers’ ‘willingness to learn’.
The former bowling all-rounder, who is considered a Sri Lankan legend, spoke to Times Sport during a training session at the newly refurbished Ministry of Sports Affairs ground in Al Amerat on Monday evening.
“This is my third stint with Oman team. I was here back in May last year before they went to the ICC World T20 Qualifier. Then two months ago, in November, I trained them during their tour of the UAE," Rumesh, who represented Sri Lanka in 23 Test matches and 70 ODIs taking 73 and 76 wickets respectively, said.
“And I am really impressed with the way the team is shaping up. This is the first time I am seeing them after their trip to UAE. I have noticed a certain change in each individual. They are physically better now than before and more positive. That’s why they look and sound confident than ever, which is good for the team especially at such an important juncture,” Rumesh said.
"I am amazed by the team spirit and camaraderie among the players. And I think that kind of relationship really boosts the players as well as their performance," he added.
Speaking about the improvements he has noticed in the team and what can be expected of them from Asia Cup T20 and World T20, he said: “They have already made the cricketing world sit up and take notice. They surprised everyone with their performances at the World T20 Qualifier in Ireland and Scotland and I should say those performances have placed Oman firmly on the world cricketing map.”
Oman booked their berth in the ICC World T20 Championship after an excellent showing in World T20 Qualifier jointly hosted by Ireland and Scotland last year.
“They have done exceptionally well during their tour of the UAE,” he said referring a successful trip to the neighbouring country where Oman won a bilateral T20 series against Hong Kong while also performing excellently against teams like Afghanistan and the UAE.
“Of course their recent tour of India is a bit disappointing if we look at the results. But by no way they are disheartening if we consider their overall performance,” he said about Duleep Mendis’ boys training camp in Rajkot.
During their stay in the western Indian city, Oman team played five Twenty20 matches, including two day-night ties, against a strong Saurashtra team that comprised India Test regular Cheteshwar Pujara and young fast bowler Jaydev Unadkat, but lost all the matches.
“They played against a strong team. No doubt about that. However, I feel that is a good learning experience for them, having played in the Indian conditions and in the format that will be followed in the Asia Cup and the World T20,” Rumesh added.
Speaking specifically about the task entrusted to him — to improve the pace bowling department, the Sri Lankan said: “They are in good shape as the rest of the team. As I said they are physically good and are looking very positive, two attributes that is vital for a fast bowler.
“But what I am more delighted about is the bowlers’ willingness to learn and their keenness to pick up the finer points. If the players are willing then it makes the coach’s job easy,” he said with a smile.
Asked whether the pace bowlers available with the team can do the job for the team, he said: “We have a good combination of pace bowlers in Mehran (Khan), Munis (Ansari), Sufyan (Mahmood Mohammed), Rajeshkumar (Ranpura), (Muhammad) Nadeem and Bilal (Khan).
“They are all different kind of bowlers, right armers and left armers and with different kind of actions,” said the well-travelled Sri Lankan who also had coaching stints with Sri Lanka as well as with national teams of countries like Canada, Nepal and Hong Kong.
“My primary objective is to make them match ready. Help them maintain their confidence levels and keep the errors to the minimum. There are other areas like bowling their ‘strong’ stock deliveries and perfect yorkers. And also basically help them take good decisions as far as bowling is concerned which in turn will help them develop good tactics for themselves and the team,” he added.
Asked what can be expected from his bowling wards as well as the team at Asia Cup T20 and World T20, he said: “I expect these bowlers to play smart, stay confident and play to their strengths. My objective is to help these boys beat the best. They have done it at World T20 Qualifiers and I believe they are capable of doing the same at Asia Cup T20 and World T20 as well.”
Difficult to predict
The 2016 Asia Cup, to be played in T20 format, will take place Bangladesh in February.
Prior to that Oman will be competing in the Qualifier, to be organised from February 19 to 22, with Afghanistan, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates for the lone berth in the main championship.
The World T20 takes place in India from March 8 to April 3. To make it to the Super 10 stage of the world event, Oman have to get past their first round Group A opponents Bangladesh, Ireland and the Netherlands. All Oman matches are to be played in Dharamsala.
Group B comprises Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and Afghanistan and only toppers from each group qualify for the Super 10 stage of the championship.
Oman are scheduled to start their campaign against Ireland on March 9. Then they take on the Netherlands on March 11 before completing their group engagements against Bangladesh on March 13.
Asked to pick his favourites for the World T20, Rumesh, who served the Asian Cricket Council as a Development Officer, said: “In cricket it is difficult to predict the winners. More so in this format (T20).”
“If we look at the Big Bash success we can say the Australians are the favourites,” Rumesh, who is now based in Melbourne where he also runs an academy, said. “But the Indian conditions are different.”
“Of course India will have the advantage of playing in home conditions”
On chances of his home country Sri Lanka defending the title they won in 2014, he said: “Though they don’t look that good at the moment, they have every chance of winning it again. But they have to adapt to the conditions quickly and play to their full potential.
“And that applies to any team. The team that adjusts (to conditions) quickly and plays smart will emerge the winners.” he said.