Cricket is being introduced in schools all over the country, besides the opening of a training facility for the game for Omanis in Amerat.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Maqbool Moosa al Lawati, board member of OC, said, “My main concern is to develop the interest of cricket among Omanis. We are slowly getting there. They are approaching Omani schools to get cricket registered as a sport there, and we have started training sessions for Omanis in Amerat Ground.”
He was the first captain of the national all-Omani team that represented the sultanate in the Asian Cricket Tournament in Singapore in 2000.
Lawati has been involved with cricket in Oman for the last 35 to 40 years. He started in the late 70s with PDO’s cricket team and later joined Oman Cricket Club (later renamed Oman Cricket), where he had a stint as vice chairman.
Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference held for the Oman Celebrity Cricket League match scheduled on January 25, Lawati said, “We also have a youth team, started under the National Youth Development Team initiative, for which we identified about 22 players, all aged 22 or younger. It started off very well but with the commitments they have - jobs and other personal matters – the interest levels fell. Additionally, most Omanis start cricket when aged 18 or 19. That is too late.”
According to Lawati, currently the focus is on starting cricket in schools, which will introduce children as young as ten to the sport. “We are working closely with Ministry of Sports Affairs and the Ministry of Education and have accomplished two challenges – introducing cricket in the Omani sports curriculum, which has already been done, and the second being, starting an academy at Amerat Ground where we are inviting Omani school students to be trained by coaches. They can be as young as eight. This will start after Muscat Festival.”
Though football is the most popular game among Omanis, Lawati said most countries have one or two key sports that are considered the national game. “Tennis is coming up very well. So are volleyball and beach volleyball. We can get cricket to that level, too.
“We had the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 tournament recently where we competed with six other teams and came out unbeaten. That gave us a chance to get promoted to Division 2 of the league. Our team will participate in a tournament in April in Namibia with five more experienced teams and we are hopeful of being among the top 14 in time.”
Lawati said these tournaments and experiences will open up opportunities for Oman. “And although it will create a lot of challenges, I want to focus on Oman Cricket Academy. The board and I are putting in efforts and time into the current team. We want to maintain our Division 2 level in the ICC World Cricket League against all odds.”
Considering the current team has players in their late 30s, he said in the next three to four years, efforts will be made to include younger players.
In Lawati’s estimation, there are 200 Omanis playing in 67 teams in the country and is hopeful that their children will develop interest in the game. “It’s a long journey. In the next seven to eight years - or even ten years - we may have players who will join our under 13 and under 15 teams, and participate in international tournaments similar to the under 19 team that Oman recently sent to Thailand which returned as joint winners.”