MUSCAT: Oman national team is all set to compete in the inaugural edition of the 2023 Men’s Gulf T20I Cricket Championship, which will be held in Doha, Qatar, from September 15-23.
The team will be led by Aqib Ilyas in the absence of regular skipper Zeeshan Maqsood, while Ayaan Khan has been named the vice-captain, according to a press statement from Oman Cricket (OC) on Wednesday.
Oman will begin their campaign in the six-nation championship, organised by the Qatar Cricket Association (QCA) with a match against the UAE on September 16.
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The single round-robin format will see Oman take on hosts on September 17 followed by a clash against Bahrain on September 19.
Coached by Duleep Mendis, Oman will play their penultimate match against Saudi Arabia on September 20 before rounding off their engagements with a match against Kuwait on September 22.
The top two teams from the group will clash in the final a day later.
All the matches will be played at the West End International Cricket Stadium and the championship will be broadcast live to more than nine countries. The championship will be held under the auspices of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and in accordance with international laws of the game.
Speaking ahead of the team’s departure, Mendis said: “It is a great initiative to host a T20I championship in the region. I hope that it becomes an annual affair and each country gets a chance to host the event. We are looking forward to this first event.”
On the team’s preparations, the experienced Oman coach said: “Despite the scorching summer, the boys have been really training hard for this tournament. We have played a few practice games to acclimatise with the match conditions and, more importantly, the weather. The boys are ready and I hope we can achieve good results. We have done good home work ahead of our departure to Qatar on Wednesday.”
The national team cricketers were last seen in action during the ICC ODI World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June-July where Oman exceeded expectations to make it to the Super Six stage in the ten-nation event.
Despite a switch in the format, the core team that travelled to Zimbabwe remains the same with only one new face in the squad.
Shakeel Ahmed, a left-arm spinner, has been drafted into the national time for the first time.
Experienced all-rounder Mehran Khan makes a comeback and will support the existing group of all-rounders in the team – Aqib Ilyas, Aayan Khan, Shoaib Khan, Mohammed Nadeem, and Rafiullah.
The batting mainstays would be opening batters – Jatinder Singh and Kashyap Prajapati – while the sole wicketkeeper is Mohammed Naseem Khushi. The other specialist spinner is Jay Odedra and the pace attack will be spearheaded by Bilal Khan, Kaleemullah, and Fayyaz Butt.
Oman last played a T20I in November 2022 when they hosted a four-nation Desert Cup tournament that featured Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Squad: Aqib Ilyas (captain, Renaissance CT), Ayaan Khan (vice-captain), Jatinder Singh, Kashyap Prajapati, Shoaib Khan (all from Muscat CT), Mohammed Nadeem, Mohammed Naseem Khushi, Kaleemullah, (all from Yalla Shabab), Jay Odedra, Bilal Khan, Rafiullah, Shakeel Ahmed, (all from Oman Stallions), Fayyaz Butt (Renaissance CT), and Mehran Khan (VLCC).
Officials: Duleep Mendis (head coach), Evert Laubscher (assistant coach), Mazher Saleem Khan (team coordinator), Zeeshan Siddiqui (analyst), and Sean Nowak (physiotherapist).
Oman’s schedule (all Oman times): September 16: Oman vs UAE (5.30pm), Sept 17: Oman vs Qatar (5.30pm), Sept 19: Oman vs Bahrain (9:30pm), Sept 20: Oman vs Saudi (9.30pm), Sept 22: Oman vs Kuwait (9.30pm). Sept 23: Final (9.30pm).