The month-long celebrations of Oman’s 48th National Day started with the inauguration of the state-of-the-art Oman Cricket Academy (OCA) by His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, who was the chief guest of the star-studded ceremony that also saw the presence of Sayyid Khalid bin Hilal Al Busaidi, Minister of Diwan of Royal Court, the Guest of Honour, and Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed bin Said Al Mardhouf Al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs.
Prominent among international figures invited to grace the occasion was Dave Richardson, ICC Chief Executive Officer.
The ceremony was also attended by a number of ministers, high-ranking government officials, foreign diplomats, leading figures from the private sector, top management of Oman Cricket and members of cricket fraternity in the Sultanate.
Speaking at the inauguration, Pankaj Khimji, Senior Board Member of Oman Cricket, said, “In the year 2000, Oman became a member of the ICC. In 2006, we became an accredited member and a body under the Ministry of Sports in Oman. From playing on sandy terrain, concrete wickets, we have made considerable progress as you can see.”
“In 15 years, we gained international status at the T20 level. And currently, Oman ranks 16th in the world out of the ICC’s 104 members,” said Pankaj.
He added, “The shouts of the words ‘Oman, Oman’ have reverberated in every cricket stadium around the world wherever our team has played, from the USA to Scotland and from Hong Kong to Uganda.
“They are not professionals, they are amateur cricketers. They work for a living but their passion is cricket and their passion is to play and represent Oman. ”
Outlining the Oman Cricket’s ambitious plans, Pankaj stated, “Our new goal and our ultimate dream is to introduce cricket in the national school curriculum here in Oman. We signed an MoU with the Ministry of Education and in the net few weeks we intend to adopt nine schools and approximately 300 children to impart cricket as a curriculum in schools in Oman.”
Dave Richardson, CEO of the International Cricket Council, said, “The ICC’s vision for cricket is a ‘sport enjoyed by the world’. But why Cricket? Cricket’s purpose sits above that vision, it is to unite, inspire and empower communities. You may say, that all sports have the power to do that and you may be right, but cricket by its very nature is uniquely placed to deliver on this purpose. It is a game for all, young and old, male or female, whatever culture or religion you may be, rich or poor.
“In its simplest form, it can be played anywhere, anytime and by anyone.
“This world-class facility, and it is world class, will no doubt unite, inspire and empower the cricket community in Oman to bigger and better things.”
The academy is equipped with its very own outdoor net cages, and bowling machines. Additionally, the indoor net facility features two fast pitches, two spin pitches, and three normal pitches for bowlers and batters to perfect their technique. Accompanied by the guest of honour, the sports minister, ICC CEO, the VVIP guests and Kanak Khimji, Oman Cricket Chairman, HH Sayyid Haitham unveiled the OCA plaque amid thunderous applause, leaving the iconic cricket facility officially open and available for some exciting games and events to happen in the times to come.
The guests were then taken around the academy building for a view of the facilities and services on offer where they also met the men’s and women’s national teams undergoing training and net practice. The guests were also taken to the balcony for a wonderful view of the grounds followed by a presentation of special mementos.
Situated on the edges of the two floodlit cricket grounds in Amerat’s picturesque setting, OCA offers world class facilities for training, net practice and coaching. The academy building also has a gym, meeting rooms, restaurant, prayer room, players’ dressing rooms and VIP sitting area. The indoor net practice arena, constructed by Gabba Nets of Australia, consists of two fast pitches, two spin pitches and three normal pitches with lights and air-conditioning and dedicated dressing room facilities. With Oman attracting tourists from all parts of the world every year, OCA will go a long way in promoting Muscat as the ultimate cricket training hub in the region.
The Oman Cricket turf ground 1 is equipped with floodlights, digital scoreboard, as many as ten turf pitches and high quality grass which is watered by OCA’s own reverse osmosis plant.
The Oman Cricket ground 2 offers similar facilities in addition to 5 astro-turf and 5 turf pitches with floodlights for fielding drills. The nets facility is constructed by Gabba Nets of Australia.
OCA is also equipped to offer teams and players a number of net bowlers and bowling machines to help them prepare for different playing conditions.