Speaking to Muscat Daily on Monday on the sidelines of the Oman team's felicitation at the Ministry of Sports Affairs, the former Sri Lankan captain said, “I am aware of the expatriate-heavy squad. But it is also early to expect more locals in the side as I guess the game is not as popular here as football.”
Sufyan Mehmood and Yousuf Rahim Baksh are the only two Omanis in the team that made its way to the 2016 ICC World T20 following a sterling display in the qualifiers in Scotland and Ireland last month.
Hailing Oman's feat, Warnapura said, “It was great to see Oman qualify for the World T20. The achievement will give an impetus to the game's development in the sultanate. [But] yes, OC should focus more on developing the game among locals as it would lead to more support from the local government.
“It is key to attracting support from the government, which will be keen to back the game here if locals are interested to play. It is a long-term process and I hope OC chalks out a strategy to promote the sport among Omanis in future,” said the ICC official.
Oman Cricket to get US$350,000 from ICC
Warnapura said Oman's march into the World T20 has fetched more funds for OC as the ICC will provide US$250,000 as part of its high performance programme, meant to be utilised over a two-year period. That apart, the world body will also give a grant of US$100,000 to OC for the team's preparations for the World T20.
“The purpose of my visit is to guide Oman on how to utilise the funds,” the ICC development manager said. “Oman needs to prioritise its needs and then proceed to use the funds. The administration of any sports association is key to the work done and professionalising it would be the first step towards development. I hope to see advancement in all cricketing areas.”
Warnapura, who had led Sri Lanka in its first official Test in 1982, said, “The ICC's funds apart, OC is also expected to receive a grant of US$40,000-50,000 from the Asian cricket body. So, it will have funds at its disposal for use.”
He added, “Oman's aim would also be to improve its rankings in ODIs as it is now in Division Five of the ICC World Cricket League. Oman's new T20 International status is valid for two years, after which the team will have to fight to retain the status.”
‘Oman needs to play a lot of T20 matches’
Having qualified for the World T20, Oman faces a tough road ahead next year in India. As per Warnapura, Oman needs to play more matches to prepare for the big event and build on its recent success.
“Coach Duleep Mendis has done a terrific job so far. Oman will have a good opportunity to play against fellow Associate teams in UAE in November. Also, the ICC is planning to arrange a few matches for the teams that have qualified for the India trip,” said Warnapura.
“With a second turf ground expected to be ready soon [in Amerat], Oman can also host T20 tournaments as it will meet the requirements to host a T20 tournament,” he said.