Shahzad Raza –
MUSCAT, Feb 27 –
There is no better sight in cricket than seeing a fast bowler going full steam ahead, moving the ball, taking wickets and running through the sides. Muscat CT’s veteran war horse Munis Ansari did exactly that during the later half of Premier Division just to remind the national selectors about what could have been had he been taken to Namibia for the all-important WCL Division One campaign where Oman finished a disappointing fifth in a six-team tournament.
With a haul of 24 wickets at a miserly economy rate of 19.54, Munis has emerged as the highest wicket-taker in Oman’s premier league competition. A proven match-winner, he made sure his team won the games it wanted to clinch one of the top two spots with two devastating spells of fast bowling nobody will be able to forget for some time.
With Muscat CT needing to beat Al Turki and win convincingly with a bonus point to stay in the championship race, Munis came out all guns blazing, tamed Al Turki to submission and did the job for his team in great style. His 7 wickets for just 16 runs in 9.1 overs, 3 of which were maiden, speak louder than words about the annihilation he caused on a cricket pitch.
History repeated itself a couple of weeks later when Muscat needed to simply win its last game against Passage to India (PTI) to ensure they could add the runners-up trophy to their wide collection of memorabilia.
No pushover on its day, PTI, sharing the wooden spoon with Al Turki, was determined to end the season on a high before Munis took the matter in his hands. Moving the ball at lively pace, he added four more wickets to the two he had grabbed in his first spell, leaving PTI in tatters as Muscat celebrated yet another memorable victory as well as taking the runners-up spot.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain in the last two games, Munis looked the real ‘Dabung’ his Oman team-mates affectionately call him for his aggression and threatening presence on the pitch.
Bowling with a lot of venom, what brought the sting back in his bite?
“While my team (Muscat) needed me to perform at my best, I wanted to prove a point to the selectors too and I am glad I was able to do that. It was not easy to deal with my omission from the national team. I was hurt and wanted to show what I could really achieve with the ball,” said Munis with a smile.
Having taken only 11 wickets in the first 10 games, Munis bagged 13 in the next two to end the league with 24 at a highly impressive strike rate of 24.29.
What did he exactly do to regain his rhythm?
“I started focusing on my fitness and bowling with the old ball. In the first few games I was trying to bowl fast instead of bowling straight. That didn’t go in our favour as we play our cricket on wickets that don’t help fast bowlers too much. I started focusing on using the old ball better. Once I was able to do that I started getting reverse swing which really helped. If you can control your swing, and where it ends, which has to be in line with the stumps, you will end up taking plenty of wickets,” said Munis replying to a question.
Which of the two spells he enjoyed more?
“Well, winning against Al Turki was more important for us as we needed to win with a bonus point and I enjoyed my spell in that match more because I was bowling really well and was on a hat-trick on two occasions in that game,” he added.
“Shoaib Khan’s wonderful 124 in that match against PTI ensured we had runs on the board and that really helped. He batted really well and what a timely knock it was,” he added.
Sanuth Ebrahim of Enhance and Ayaan Khan of Muscat CT are the next on the wicket-takers’ list with 22 wickets each, followed by Jay Odedara on Al Turki with 21 and Ahmed Fayyaz Butt of Enhance with 17 to complete the top five.
Oman’s Premier League came to an exciting end last week with Assarain and Muscat CT holding the top two spots. Enhance ended up third.
Shahzad Raza –