Muscat, Sept 22 – Cricketing legends Anil Kumble of India and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene felt Oman Cricket’s focus needs to be on developing grassroots cricket and providing top-quality exposure to the national team. As Oman Cricket gears up for its 40th anniversary celebrations, it is only but fair that two greats of the game would grace the occasion and help the country take stock of its game. Indian cricket’s shining luminary, former captain, ex-head coach and above all its highest wicket-taker Anil Kumble and Sri Lanka’s master batsman and former captain Mahela Jayawardene praised Oman’s progress at the international level.
“It’s a very grand occasion, the 40th year celebration of Oman Cricket and thanks for inviting me. It’s wonderful to know that Duleep Mendis, who is a stalwart of Sri Lankan cricket, is looking after the Oman cricket team and helped Oman get ODI status. I’m sure Pankaj (Khimji) has seen the growth of Indian cricket over the years. But this will be the icing on the cake for him and his family. It will be wonderful to see Oman qualify for the World Cup. It is also important to grow the game and the ICC is doing a wonderful job. The path ahead will not be so easy and simple. But I think the quality of cricket needs to be consistently going forward and Oman will hopefully move in that direction’’.
Former Sri Lankan skipper Jayawardene echoed Kumble’s sentiments and stated that Oman’s domestic structure should produce good players and Oman will need more exposure.
POTENTIAL IN OMAN CRICKET
“It is amazing how Oman has developed its cricket over the last ten years. The structure that they have put in place, domestic cricket the way it has developed and I feel there is potential in Oman cricket. Once you get closer to the top teams it gets harder in terms of skills and temperament. It’s a start for Oman and they will have to get more exposure in terms of playing bigger and more tougher teams,’’ he added.
Kumble felt something like an exchange programme would be of great help to the Oman national team.
“Well, just as Mahela said Oman will need to get more exposure in terms of playing the top teams. Maybe there could be something like an exchange programme between the Oman team and some of the Indian teams, Indian clubs I suppose. And the same with maybe Sri Lankan teams and that could be a start for Oman in terms of an exposure,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, Oman Cricket’s senior board member Pankaj Khimji revealed that some exposure tours could be in the offing.
“We were invited by Rahul (Dravid) to come and play against the Indian U-19 team before the World Cup in South Africa. So, both Rahul Johri (BCCI CEO) and Rahul Dravid are keen to help Oman engage in high-level cricket in India and that is encouraging for us.
Jayawardene also stressed upon the need to nurture the grassroots system that will eventually produce quality players for Oman. “I was trying to understand Oman Cricket’s domestic structure and I have been given to understand that there needs to be one Omani player in each of the domestic teams. That is a good step but the first priority was to get ODI status and compete at the international level and that has been achieved by Oman. There is a structure in place for Oman and the local players will have to come and be a part of the system. More young players will have to be encouraged to enjoy the cricketing experience,’’ he added.
Kumble opined there could be no bigger inspiration for Oman than a spot at the World Cup.
“The biggest inspiration for Oman should be on qualifying for the World Cup. At the same time, focus on grassroot level cricket and that is where you will produce the best players and the last 5-6 years we have seen the wonderful growth of Oman cricket owing to this,’’ the former Indian captain said.
With regard to developing grassroots cricket, Pankaj Khimji also stated that an MoU has been signed to introduce cricket in local schools.
“We have signed an MoU with the Ministry of Education for the introduction of cricket in school curriculum. This will help popularise the sport among the Omani school children,’’ he added.