MUSCAT: When A Division champion Arm Alpha takes on star-studded IT Works in a Premier Division T20 League opener tomorrow, nobody will quite know how the country’s showpiece cricket competition will pan out without the participation of Passage to India (PTI) and Assarain, the top two teams of the last season.
Although all the star players from the two champion teams have joined most of the six premier sides in the tournament, it is still anybody’s guess who will go on to claim the most coveted cricket trophy in Oman.
A much stronger Muscat CT, fancied Al Turki, AER and Renaissance complete the line-up in which most teams fancy their chances of landing the T20 title. With Oman pacers Bilal Khan and Kaleemullah likely to represent Alpha, it will be its bowling versus IT Works’ batting that includes big names like Zeeshan Maqsood, Khawar Ali, Adnan Ilyas, Muhammed Nadeem and Khurram Khan.
“Apart from a strong batting line-up, we have a lot of all-rounders in our squad which is sure to help us go after our maiden Premier League title. With the kind of team we have formed this season, we know we are among the title favourites and will doing everything we can to rise to the occasion,” said Jibran Yousuf, coach and mentor of IT Works.
The afternoon game pits Al Turki against Muscat, which could well be a dress rehearsal for a possible title showdown later this season. While Al Turki is bolstered by the inclusion of experienced players like Mehran Khan, Sindo Michael and Gustav Burger, Muscat has been further strengthened by the arrival of explosive cricketers like Naseem Khushi, Amir Kaleem, Kashyap Prajapati and young Waseem Ali.
“Since players from Assarain and PTI are distributed in all the Premier Division sides, I don’t think we can single out one team as hot favourite. We are going to have six strong teams competing against each other and that will make this competition very intense and interesting,” said the veteran Rajeshkumar Ranpura, Muscat captain and former Oman player.
Al Turki skipper Twinkle Bhandari is buoyed by the variety of players under his command this season and comes to his side’s opening game with high hopes.
“As we have a nice bunch of incredibly talented cricketers in our team, we are definitely hoping for the best this season. While we had shown great improvement in all areas of the game last season, we are confident of doing even better with a stronger batting and bowling unit,” added Bhandari, who has also played for Oman.
The tournament is sure to provide a big platform to some of the best young players in the country and many of them have been picked up by AER, one of the two teams, along with Alpha, to have been promoted from A Division.
“Our team is full of young players, mostly from under-19 and under-16 age groups, who will be playing alongside some very good senior cricketers. These young players want to play fearless cricket and I am sure they will be helped by their seniors in the squad. It will be our common goal to fight hard without thinking too much about the end result,” said AER captain Sajeed Ahmed, who has stuck to the same squad that won the team promotion to Premier Division after emerging as A Division runner-up.
AER’s Danish Mohammed was the A Division’s highest scorer with 482 runs in 7 games including two hundreds and 27 sixes in the competition last season.
Renaissance completes the six-team T20 league which will be followed by the fancied 50-over league next year. Premier Division T20 League games on Friday, October 16 atOman Cricket Ground 1 in Amerat: Arm Alpha vs IT Works (8.45 am). Al Turki NMC vs Muscat (1.30 pm).