Oman: Indians, Pakistanis, no rivalry

Even while India and Pakistan have been engaged in a bitter rivalry over the years, Oman has benefited from the cricketing talents from the two Asian power houses. The players have forgotten their individual nationalites to come forward to represent Oman.

Oman cricket team head coach Duleep Mendis addressing a press conference in Dharamsala on Thursday.   -  PTI

“It was a good win and we wanted to celebrate. There was a little bit of celebration but with two matches left we have a long way to go,” said a proud Oman head coach Duleep Mendis keeping his emotions under control.

However, Mendis did not stop his players from having their share of limelight in the media. After all, they had expressed themselves well on the cricket field to earn a deserving win over Ireland in the World T20 qualifiers.

Even while India and Pakistan have been engaged in a bitter rivalry over the years, Oman has benefited from the cricketing talents from the two Asian power houses. The country witnessed the seeds of cricket being sown because of its acquaintance with the British ships and the fondness of the then Sultan Sayyid Abbas bin Faisal in the 1970s. The game later experienced growth due to the wholehearted support of a prominent private house Khimji Ramdas (headed by Kanak Khimji).

“I don't think there is much difference between Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. The cultures are the same and we understand each other. Cricket is in their blood and it is easy to encourage and improve them. Besides, they are ready to learn,” said Sri Lankan great Mendis, who has been working with the side for the last two years.

Oman's spin bowling consultant and former India spinner Sunil Joshi was also amazed with the bonding within the team. “I never felt that there is a player from Pakistan or India or Oman. They have forgotten their individual nationalities to come forward to represent Oman,” said Joshi.

The tiny Gulf nation, which beat superior sides such as the Netherlands and Afghanistan to qualify for the World T20 event and gain the T20 International status last year, has performed consistently and its win over Ireland was not a fluke.

The presence of courageous players including Wednesday's hero Amir Ali, Jatinder Singh, Khawar Ali and Zeeshan Maqsood has played a major role in Oman's improved track record.

A self-proclaimed Salim Malik and Basit Ali fan, Amir said he had no nerves in the run chase against Ireland. “I have done it before. I knew we had to take it to the end,” said Amir, hailing from Karachi and working with the marketing division of a restaurant in Oman.

Like Amir, every member of the side is just living his dream of playing at the highest level. Fast bowler Munis Ansari, who left Madhya Pradesh in 2009, said: “People at my place, Shore (near Bhopal), burst crackers late into the night. Happy to achieve my dream of playing in a World Cup,” said Ansari.

Oman now wants to take the good work forward. “The game has developed mainly due to the support of the Sports Ministry, Asian Cricket Council and private houses. We may have got our first ground just two years back but cricket is spreading fast,” said Zameel Zaidi, who played in Pakistan and Oman and now serves as the media manager of the side.

“Half of the players of the top teams are here but our premier league is going on,” asserted Zaidi, also a Level 2 coach who has seen the journey of Oman cricket for the last three decades.