“Cricket is the second most patronised sport in the sultanate after football,” said Oman Cricket (OC) board member and cricket aficionado Pankaj Khimji. “We are very pleased to announce that under the patronage of the Ministry of Sports, OC has developed five astroturf cricket grounds and one green grass ground in the wilayat of Amerat to further the sport of cricket in Oman.”
A record number of 72 teams, which includes seven all-Omani teams and a total of 1,400 players including 165 Omanis, with the rest made up of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans are playing in the domestic league matches which started in September 2012 and continue till May.
In addition a Junior League consisting of ten teams in the Under 16 category and seven teams in the Under 19 category commenced in October 2012 and finished in February. There is also an Inter School Girls U-19 tournament that includes teams from the Indian School’s Muscat and Wadi Kabir and was held over January and February.
“We want to grow cricket, not just in Muscat, but also in other areas of Oman. We have 56 umpires all trained by Asian Cricket Council (ACC) officials. Much larger neighbouring countries, with larger funds don't have as much training, so we are very proud of what we have achieved so far. We have only achieved 30-40 per cent of the goals we set five years ago, but we are satisfied that the long-standing need for grass grounds with turf wickets has been met.”
Speaking at a press conference, Duleep Mendis, national cricket coach, said, “It is very important to create awareness about the game among the local cricketers. They need to be encouraged and more Omanis should play. An all-Omani team should be allowed to play in the A division league irrespective of the results. As long as they play in the top league, I am convinced the locals can improve. If Oman builds an adequate pool of local cricketers to choose from while picking the national team, OC may no longer need to be on the lookout for expatriate cricketers fulfilling residency criteria of four and seven years, respectively, set by the ICC and the ACC.”
Two Omani players have been picked for the ACC T20 Trophy to be played from March 24-April 1 in Nepal - Sayyid Qais al Said and Sufiyan Mohammed. “Cricket in Oman is almost entirely corporatised, so we need to commercialise the game in Oman. To help us achieve our goal, we needed a professional agency and OC is pleased to announce that NPA Events will be our marketing consultant,” said Pankaj.
According to OC's agreement with NPA Events, it has the rights to sell advertising space on the grass ground and the five other grounds with astroturf pitches in Amerat till December 2014.