Oman’s joy on qualifying for the T20 World Cup in Australia for the second time in a row on Wednesday was doubled on Sunday when the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier’s team of the tournament featured two of its national team players. Opening batsman Jatinder Singh and pacer Bilal Khan were among the XI selected in the T20 World Cup Qualifier team that was decided by an expert panel.
The committee of four comprised television commentators Preston Mommsen and Natalie Germanos alongside ESPNcricinfo correspondent Peter Della Penna and ICC representative Ben Leaver. After two weeks of competition that featured 14 teams, six teams, including Oman, confirmed their berths in the T20 World Cup, and the XI featured players from six nations. Papua New Guinea (PNG) captain Asad Vala was named captain.
Jatinder and Bilal were selected along with other top performers including the likes of Ireland’s Paul Stirling, Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate, PNG’s Norman Vanua and player of the tournament Gerhard Erasmus of Namibia. In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily on Sunday, Jatinder said, “It feels great to be picked in the team of the tournament. I had worked really hard to achieve these results. I am pretty satisfied with my performances in the Qualifier.”
Recollecting his crucial match-winning knock against Hong Kong that secured Oman’s trip to Australia next year, the opening batsman said, “Yes, it was a crunch game and we were in deep trouble after those two quick run-outs of Aqib [Ilyas] and Shani [Zeeshan Maqsood] that involved me. “I knew that I had to stay at the crease till the end and if I could stay, then I was confident that we could get past Hong Kong.
And that was the idea as I knew the wicket was not very good. Once we got past 130, I knew that it would be very difficult for the opposition to chase the target.” Jatinder said ‘it was a memorable and crucial innings against Hong Kong’ though ‘each and every knock I play for Oman is very close to my heart’. Jatinder emerged as the tournament’s third-highest run scorer with 267 runs at an average of 38.14 including two fifties.
Jatinder’s presence at the top of the order was underlined in two unbeaten knocks of 68 and 67 against Canada and Hong Kong respectively, while he also starred in an Oman record 126-run second-wicket stand with Ilyas against the Canadians. Bilal was the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 18 wickets at an average of 12 and also took two four-wicket hauls in consecutive games.
In his remarks to Muscat Daily, the pacer said, “Thank God, I had the strong backing of my coach Duleep Mendis, board members, bowling coach and teammates that I could perform well and get my yorkers perfectly. I am known for my yorkers and against Hong Kong, we knew it was our last chance.
Alhumdullilah, I could get it on spot on. “My sincerest gratitude to my boss, K K Mohandas, who is my employer and owner of my domestic Premier Division team, Passage to India. He is like my father to me and I used to talk to him every night. He has really encouraged me and gave me lot of confidence.” Bilal added, “The constant shouts of Mazhar Saleem Khan, our assistant coach, from the team camp used to ring my ears and it pushed me to do my best. Also the support of our bowling coach, Aavishkar Salvi, has been very helpful in my performance.”
Bilal said he was ‘confident’ that he would be in the team of the tournament after a consistent display and is looking forward to the World Cup next year. “With more expectations, I know that I have to work hard and I am ready for it. There is no pressure as I revel in the challenging conditions,” said the 31 year old pacer, whose blistering pace and the ability to produce yorkers bamboozled even the most experienced batsmen in the UAE Qualifier.
Bilal was Oman’s X-factor and the bowler will be certainly one to watch out in Australia next year in the group stage that features eight teams. Four from the eight teams – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, PNG, Scotland, Namibia and Oman – will advance to the main Super 12 round of the World Cup.
T20 World Cup Qualifier team of the tournament: Jatinder Singh, Bilal Khan, Paul Stirling (Ireland), Asad Vala (PNG, captain), Gerhard Erasmus (Namibia, vice-captain), Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands), Matt Cross (Scotland, wk), JJ Smit (Namibia), Roelef van der Merwe (Netherlands), Norman Vanua (PNG), Paul van Meekeren (Netherlands). 12th man: Bernard Scholtz (Namibia). @ashokmuscat