Oman is all geared up to host six matches in the first round of the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup and Oman Cricket Chairman Pankaj Khimji believes hosting such a marquee event will give a fillip to the sport in the region. He also believes the relationship between Oman Cricket and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has grown with each passing day.
In an interaction with ANI, Khimji opened up about his hopes from the T20 World Cup, the national team’s preparations, relations with BCCI, and whether hosting marquee events in associate nations can give a boost to the sport. “We are totally elated and overwhelmed, I cannot express what it means for Oman to host such a tournament. First of all, even to be considered was a big high for us. Think about it, we are an associate country. Only four-five associate teams have done T20 World Cup two times in a row and we are one of them. Hosting the World Cup is an all-time high, an associate nation playing and hosting is totally what dreams are made of. We are living a dream as they say,” Khimji said.
Oman is placed in Group B of the Qualifying Stages for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, and Scotland. The top two sides from the group will qualify for the Super 12 Stages.
“The best part of being the host is how you do the build-up. Fortunately, Oman eased restrictions towards the latter part of last year so we could play a little bit of domestic cricket. We were not able to get competitive games because nobody was ready to travel. So we had to play within ourselves. By the end of August, we realised that Oman is going to host the World Cup. We needed to make sure that the team did justice to its place. We got Mumbai (Ranji Trophy heavyweights) to come over here and play four ODIs and three T20Is and we had a super series with them. Amol Muzumdar was here, Yashasvi Jaiswal was here,” he added.
Khimji is full of praise for the BCCI, saying that the cricket board is super efficient and everything is taken care of.
“You do not realise what the BCCI does. It is a dinosaur, not a dinosaur from an age point of view, but a dinosaur in size. It is a machine that is super-efficient. Not many people realise that doing 13-14 years of IPL is not easy. Your IPL tournaments every year is bigger than any tournament anywhere in the world. I am thankful to the ICC, Sourav Ganguly, and Jay Shah for trusting us,” said Khimji.
“BCCI has been super-efficient. BCCI has made sure that we have four people here at our beck and call at all times, moderating us and helping us in every aspect of hosting the tournament. Whether I need Sourav Ganguly or Jay Shah’s help, they have been fantastic. Every one of them has been outstanding. We have had no problems whatsoever,” he added.
When asked whether Oman Cricket would like to host IPL in the coming future, Khimji said: “Who would even want to think twice before answering this question. If BCCI were to consider Oman or even think of considering Oman as an IPL host, I would be elated. I would not even blink an eyelid if they ask me whether we would host the IPL. Between BCCI and Oman Cricket, the relationship is of mutual respect and trust. We still do not have a contract in place, that’s how good the relations are.”
“We are absolutely doing this out of passion and complete faith in each other’s commitments. We have a commitment, we shook our hands, and off we went. It will be unprecedented that we probably would not even be signing a contract for hosting this event after the tournament is over,” he added.
Talking about how hosting ICC events would augur well for associate teams, Khimji said: “You have hit the nail. I am so much for this that a certain amount of ICC-sponsored full country tournaments should be encouraged to take place in associate countries. What happens is that it not only gives a fillip to the local structure but it also helps in making sure that we are getting in tune. Local governments will also start supporting the sport. I think it is important that ICC should encourage full members to play games in associate countries.”