Muscat – He has been a manager of a World Cup-winning squad and has already led Oman to two T20 World Cups. A coach who certainly knows what it takes to go to a World Cup, Duleep Mendis has a challenge that he is relishing as Oman prepares for a dream mission – a spot in the ICC Men’s World Cup.
The ODI World Cup is scheduled to be held in India in October-November later this year and with eight teams already confirmed, the stage is now set to decide the remaining two spots for the World Cup, which would be decided during the forthcoming ICC Men’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe from June 18-July 9.
Mendis will be leading Oman at the Qualifier and sounded confident of Team Red’s chances in Zimbabwe that will feature four-Test playing nations along with six Associate nations vie for the two berths at the ICC ODI World Cup.
Three-time World Cup winners West Indies, Sri Lanka, the team which won the World Cup in 1996 with Mendis as manager, hosts Zimbabwe and Ireland are the four teams that along with Netherlands finished as bottom five of ICC Cricket Super League. The quartet will be joined by Scotland, Oman and Nepal who finished as top-three nations in the World Cricket League Division 2 and UAE and USA, who made it through Qualifier playoff.
With the format for the World Cup Qualifier and groupings yet to be announced, Mendis said: “It has been a remarkable journey over the past four years during which we played 36 ODIs and finished second in the seven-nation Division 2.
“The forthcoming World Cup Qualifier will be a great opportunity for our boys to showcase their potential and I am confident that our team can do well. The recent performance at the ACC Premier Cup, an Asia Cup qualifier, in Nepal where we finished third gave us a good insight what our players can do.
“The batting didn’t click initially but did well in the later stages in Nepal. If our batters can perform as they did in the later stages, I am confident we can do well. Bowling has been our forte and if our batters play to their potential, we stand a chance.”
Mendis said: “Oman are not going to make up numbers in the Qualifier in Zimbabwe. We will make an impact and the 10-12 warm-up camp in Durban, South Africa, will do us a world of good. We will play five warm-up games against top teams there.
While Mendis expressed hope and optimism, the man who has been one of the longest-serving managers of any Associate team in the world, Madhu Jesrani, who is also the secretary of Oman Cricket, was full of emotions while recollecting the team’s journey since the start of the 21st century.
Jesrani said: “We have reached World Cup Qualifiers twice in the past, first in 2005 in Ireland and then in 2009 in South Africa. We had few amazing results though the 2009 trip to South Africa was disappointing. The current team has done brilliantly to finish second in Division 2 and we are proud of their journey.”
“I still remember how our team prepared for the previous World Cup Qualifier. We didn’t have even turf wickets or grass grounds. Oman Cricket has come a long way, thanks to the yeoman contribution of our former Oman Cricket chairman Late Sheikh Kanak Khimji.
“We all miss him, and it was under his guidance that we have come so far. This has been a journey of pride and passion for us,” said Jesrani as his voice choked with emotions.
Jesrani said: “The team under Duleep Mendis has made tremendous progress and though the going will be very tough in Zimbabwe, we have a good chance.
“The recent Premier Cup display in Nepal and the second-place finish in Division 2 has given our boys lot of confidence. We will carry the confidence into the World Cup Qualifier.”