Turf wicket ready for cricket

The new turf wicket at the Amerat ground on Monday (Khalid Abdulnabi/Muscat Daily)

After a nearly decade-long wait, Oman Cricket (OC) is ready to host its first ever competitive match on a turf pitch. On December 6, former champion Muscat CT will take on Assarain CT in the A division league to launch a new innings for the sport in the country.

Speaking to Muscat Daily on Monday, Madhu Jesrani, OC general secretary, termed the occasion as 'historic' and 'a dream come true'.

“It has been a long and arduous journey,” he said. “There were plenty of obstacles, but we overcame them with patience and the support of the Ministry of Sports Affairs, board members and a large number of well-wishers. Now, we are on the threshold of history - cricket on a turf wicket in Oman. It is a dream come true.”

The turf wicket and ground in Amerat, spread across 61,000sqm, was officially inaugurated on October 17 by H H Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, OC patron-in-chief and the Minister of Heritage and Culture.

“The ground, donated by the sports ministry, was registered in 2008 and we have been working constantly to get it ready,” Jesrani said. “There were some delays as we got a plot of land that needed to be levelled first. We then approached donors and along with aid from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), we gradually got it done. It already has incurred a cost of RO300,000 and the expenses will increase as we add more facilities.”

He added that six donors in Oman raised a total of RO135,000 while OC received a grant of RO85,000 from the ACC.

“The turf wicket will have a big impact on the game here. We will host 21 A division games on the ground this season and also host the T20 knockout trophy.”

Among the issues that still need to be sorted out, Jesrani said, was that of water supply. “We are currently using six to eight tankers to maintain the ground and turf. We recently obtained permission to install an electricity transformer.”

Asked about the OC's plans, Jesrani said, “The top priority is to prepare the second turf wicket on the adjacent ground by 2013 and then launch a cricket academy in 2014. Once we achieve these two goals, we can look to gain ICC Associate Member status. However, it will all depend on the OC's financial position and donations.”

Pankaj Khimji, OC board member, termed the availability of the turf ground as 'a momentous occasion'.

“I am overwhelmed with pride and joy,” he said. “It is the start of a new beginning for cricket in Oman.” Khimji, who is the Asian Region Representative in the Affiliate Committee of the ICC, added, “Once we have two turf grounds by 2014 and the ICC Associate Member status, we can look to host top international teams. It will also go a long way in raising the standard of domestic cricket.”

Mohammed Ishaq, the Pakistani curator, said that the new turf would take time to settle down. “But I am confident that the players will enjoy playing on it in the coming weeks,” he said, adding that of the five strips at the venue, two will be used initially during the A division league.

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