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Oman favourites against Namibia, says captain Ilyas

2 Jun 2024

Bridgetown, Barbados – It seemed that even the rain gods wanted the Oman players to complete their training session at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday afternoon. Minutes after Duleep Mendis, Oman’s head coach, concluded the team’s final training session, rain poured in for an hour before it halted.

Oman would hope the rains stay away on Sunday night (Monday morning, 4.30am, Oman time) at the same venue when they launch their campaign in the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup against Namibia in a Group B match.

Oman were the first team among the participating nations to arrive in the West Indies for the World Cup, which for the first time will feature an expanded version with 20 teams.

Oman’s newly appointed skipper Aqib Ilyas exuded confidence in the team’s preparations and said: “We have had excellent preparations, and the boys are raring to go. It is a big stage, but we are prepared to give our best.”

Ilyas, the team’s star all-rounder, said: “The team benefited from the early arrival as the players got a good idea of the wicket and weather conditions. What is also in our favour in Bridgetown is that the wickets are on the slower side and resemble what we play in Muscat.”

“We also got acclimatised to the humidity level, which is quite high here. Our team’s composition goes well with the way the wickets have been behaving in Barbados. We have top-quality spinners and skillful batters. The three weeks of our preparations here will stand in good stead for us.”

Ilyas, who took over from seasoned campaigner and long-serving captain Zeeshan Maqsood, said: “The team has worked hard to reach this stage and we can create upsets. The time has come to showcase our potential.”

Ilyas denied that his team is under any pressure and said: ‘The recent wins against Namibia during the T20I series in Oman will only be of statistical relevance but the players will take that confidence going into tomorrow’s game. It is a fresh game, but I believe we are the favourites.”

Oman’s T20I head-to-head record against Namibia in the six games played is two wins and four defeats.

Asked who would be the key players in the squad, Ilyas was clear. He said: “The success will depend on how the whole team performs but admitted that seniors like Bilal Khan, the pace spearhead, and all-rounder Zeeshan Maqsood, along with himself, will have a larger role to shoulder in West Indies.”

On more Associate nations coming in to play in this edition of the World Cup, Ilyas said: “The Associate nations are working hard and there could be few upsets witnessed at this edition. The Associate nations would like to prove a point and let the world know what they can do. I thank the International Cricket Council for this format.”

Ilyas, who suffered a serious injury during the 2021 World Cup, which Oman co-hosted with the UAE, said: “The injury made me realise to be always thankful to Almighty. I am more thankful now and will try to do my best. With Oman Cricket entrusting me the responsibility of captaincy, I know that I am capable of handling it.”

With Oman being the only nation from the region, there are high hopes that coach Mendis will script another famous win as he led Oman to one win in each of the previous two T20 World Cups, the country featured in 2016 and 2021.

The former Sri Lankan captain said: “I am happy with the preparations of the team. The boys are raring to go, and we hope to have a winning start tomorrow. The plan to come early and acclimatise in Barbados has really been helpful. The weather is quite different to Oman, but the wickets are similar, which will be to the liking of my boys.”

“The three practice games in Barbados and two official warm-up games in Trinidad have yielded positive results. This is the first time that our boys are playing in the West Indies, so training in Barbados helped them a lot,” he added.

Namibia qualified for the T20 World Cup on the back of a stellar run at the Africa Regional Qualifier stage. They were undefeated in the tournament, securing wins over six teams including co-qualifiers Uganda and Test-playing Zimbabwe. Success over Test nations isn’t a new phenomenon for the Eagles, who stunned Sri Lanka in the last edition of the T20 World Cup, and they’d like to repeat the feat in the upcoming event.

Namibia are also the highest ranked Associate nation (14th) at the World Cup.

Oman squad: Aqib Ilyas (c), Zeeshan Maqsood, Kashyap Prajapati, Pratik Athavale, Ayaan Khan, Shoaib Khan, Mohammad Nadeem, Naseem Khushi, Mehran Khan, Bilal Khan, Rafiullah, Kaleemullah, Fayyaz Butt, Shakeel Ahmad, Khalid Kail.

Namibia squad: Gerhard Erasmus (c), Zane Green, Michael Van Lingen, Dylan Leicher, Ruben Trumpelmann, Jack Brassell, Ben Shikongo, Tangeni Lungameni, Niko Davin, JJ Smit, Jan Frylinck, JP Kotze, David Wiese, Bernard Scholtz, Malan Kruger, PD Blignaut.

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