Rising Cricket Nation Oman Ready To Co-Host The Middle East’s ‘Biggest’ Ever Sporting Event

rising-cricket-nation-oman-ready-to-co-host-the-middle-east’s-‘biggest’-ever-sporting-event

Associate nation Oman is ready to co-host the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Francois Nel-ICC/ICC via … [+] Getty Images)

ICC via Getty Images

After the first ball is delivered between host Oman and Papua New Guinea on October 17 to signify the start of the postponed and relocated T20 World Cup, Pankaj Khimji will look up to the sky, close his eyes and whisper “thank you”.

Amid this historic moment in the fast rising Associate nation, the Oman Cricket (OC) boss will take a moment to think of his father Kanaksi Khimji, who passed away in February aged 85.

Known locally as ‘the godfather of cricket’, Kanaksi was the driving force behind OC becoming formally established in 1979 with the support of the Oman royal family. 

“My dad laid the foundation and he was the one who had the vision for something like this to happen,” Khimji told me ahead of cricket’s biggest international tournament since the pandemic started.

“It will be the next generation who will really benefit from all of this and I hope we can inspire the country.”

cricket is rising in Oman. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Getty Images

The affluent Gulf nation has been rising on-and-off the cricket field through the influential and well-heeled Khimji family. Kanaksi’s grandfather Ramdas Thackersey came to Oman 150 years ago from India to trade grain, tea and spices in the bustling port of Muscat.

The family business prospered and, these days, the Khimji Ramdas Group of Companies is a major conglomerate with strong ties to the UAE and India.

Those relationships have manifested in cricket with Oman along with fellow Associate nation UAE filling the hosting duties for India, who had to step aside after being ravaged by the Delta variant earlier this year. The original T20 World Cup was meant to be played in Australia 12 months ago before the pandemic intervened.

“The UAE was always a natural choice as the host of the Indian Premier League but we believed we could offer a new destination for cricket in the region,” Khimji said with Oman nabbing the first week of the month-long event. “We had to convince India but we have a good relationship with them and they were extremely supportive.”

With Oman in July locked in to co-host the first round – in essence a qualifying tournament for the main draw and a guise for cricket’s governing body to boost the relatively meagre number of competing teams – they had just 90 days to prepare for what is being described as the “biggest” sporting event ever in the Middle East.

“There have been some big soccer events in the region but in terms of global television audiences, which could reach three billion viewers, none surpasses this,” Khimji said.

“Of course, next year the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be bigger but, until then, this will have the mantle.”

The AFC Asian Cup final 2019 was played in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Koki … [+] Nagahama/Getty Images)

Getty Images

With more infrastructure needed, including boosting capacity of the 3000-seat Oman Cricket Academy ground in Al Amerat along with building media facilities and corporate boxes, Khimji estimates the bill has totalled $3 million to far exceed Oman’s hosting fee of $400,000 for staging six games.

“It obviously costs a lot to make sure this is up to standard but you can’t measure its value and it will have a huge effect on Oman cricket for a long time to come,” he said.

If deemed a success, Khimji hopes it will lead to Associate nations – those under the elite 12 Full Members – staging big ticket events in cricket’s next cycle of 2024-31 after a bland period of rotation between powers India, England and Australia.

He revealed that Oman have submitted a bid with Pakistan and UAE to co-host a T20 World Cup in the next cycle, a proposal that could gain considerable steam if this upcoming event runs smoothly.

With its deep pockets and proximity to the subcontinent, Oman has emerged as an appealing locale and thrust into the melting pot along with the likes of UAE, Malaysia and Qatar to host coveted neutral international matches.

It just might have an aesthetic edge with the Oman Cricket Academy ground in Al Amerat, 15 km southeast of Muscat, nestled in a plateau with mountains in the backdrop.

The beautiful surrounds should be a pleasing sight for the billions watching worldwide and boost Oman’s grand prospects of hosting international cricket in the future.

Oman was close to hosting Zimbabwe’s tour of Afghanistan earlier this year, but they may not have to wait long. Khimji said Oman has agreed to host embattled Afghanistan, whose future is uncertain after the return of the Taliban could mean the death-knell for women’s cricket there.

There is uncertainty over cricket in Afghanistan. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

It has led to Australia almost certainly canning hosting Afghanistan in a November one-off Test with other countries likely to follow suit. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has yet to take an official stance although its board is set to discuss the burning issue in a meeting next month.

“We have committed to hosting Afghanistan if they wish,” said Khimji who narrowly missed out on being elected on the ICC’s board in January’s Associate Member Directors contest.

“I don’t believe the men’s team should be banned from playing because of what is happening in Afghanistan. They should not be in exile.”

In the meantime, with its national team consisting of amateur players gearing up for the moment of their careers in front of excited local fans, Oman hopes to deliver an unforgettable show that will truly put it on the cricket map.

“There is a lot of pressure – not just getting everything in place – but to also perform on the pitch while showcasing what this country has to offer,” Khimji said.

“It’s so exciting. The whole world will be watching us.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

bts-beat-taylor-swift-for-the-most-weeks-at-no.-1-in-history-on-the-sales-chart

BTS Beat Taylor Swift For The Most Weeks At No. 1 In History On The Sales Chart

only-survivor-of-kenosha-shootings-files-federal-lawsuit-claiming-police-‘conspired’-with-kyle-rittenhouse

Only Survivor Of Kenosha Shootings Files Federal Lawsuit Claiming Police ‘Conspired’ With Kyle Rittenhouse