Muscat: Oman’s international standard cricket facilities have started to attract foreign teams to the country and young sides from English counties Lancashire and Nottinghamshire are currently in the capital, playing practice games with local teams and soaking in the Sultanate’s rich culture that fascinates one and all.
Paul Allott, former England Test star who is now Director of Cricket, Lancashire, is leading his county’s academy side while Sachin Bajaj is heading the squad from Nottinghamshire.
“We have brought our academy side here which is the first run on the ladder of professional cricket. There are 17 to 19 year-old players, along with a couple of professionals in a small squad of eleven. It is important for our players to be practicing outside at this time of the year in February and March. They need outside practice because it is impossible to do so in England at this particular time,” Allott, who is also an eminent cricket commentator, explained.
Allott had led the academy side to Mumbai last year but chose to tour Oman on Sachin’s advice.
“I was able resurrect my relationship with Pankaj Khimji who had brought me here in 1984 along with some other English professional players to play in a memorial game against the World Cup winning Indian side,” added the former England player who played 13 Tests for his country.
He said young English players were not here just to play cricket.
“We need to educate them about other cultures and Oman is a wonderful country with a rich culture and traditions.”
Talking about cricket facilities in Oman, the Lancashire official said he was pleasantly surprised to have seen and experienced the hospitality and infrastructure here.
“I have found this to be a fantastic facility. We have used both grounds in Amerat. We played a 50-over game on Saturday, have practiced on the centre wicket, we have used the nets; everything is really first class and everybody has been very helpful. All the cricket personalities around are great here. Everything that we need is here and I am seriously considering bringing our senior squad out here in the years to come,” added Allott.
Lancashire academy’s tour of Oman is sponsored by William Hare, a steel fabrication company headed by David Hodgkiss, who is also the chairman of Lancashire.
Sachin, who played a leading role in bringing the two sides to Oman, owns a company called Global Cricket School which has been running camps for English counties, ECB, Cricket Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and all the associate countries for the last 16 to 17 years.
“I have known Pankaj and Mr. Kanaksi Khimji for over 25 years because of Raj Singh Dangarpur. Our aim is not just to bring the English teams to practice here but provide local players good exposure against quality teams. It works both ways and our target next year is to get England Lions, the A team, the Under-19 team, the women’s team and at least two to three school and county teams in the pre-season over here and benefit from each other’s exposure and experience,” explained Sachin.
“We are going to create a calendar of events under the auspices of Oman Cricket to ensure good teams come here and play each other as well as against Oman national teams. Oman has an excellent facility and it is one of the best countries in the Gulf, which is an added advantage to the teams touring the Sultanate. It has very hospitable people, great culture and big presence of cricket followers,” added Sachin.
Sachin said they had discussed the possibility of inviting some of the young Oman players to Lancashire and practice there in the summer till September which is their off season.