Barely a month after Oman National Cricket Team won the ICC WCL Division Three in Muscat, Oman colts repeated the same feat overseas, and in the same outstanding way — remaining unconquered throughout the ten-team tournament that also had Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, China, Qatar, Bahrain, Thailand, Bhutan and Maldives.
Both Oman and Kuwait will now join UAE, Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore in Asia Division One qualifier in 2019 whose winner, along with Division One champions of Europe, Africa, Americas and EAP, will qualify for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 in South Africa. A total of 50 teams are part of the qualification process in the regional qualifiers.
In an interview Oman U19 captain talks about the preparation, the team, the journey, the glory and a delayed celebration.
Was the team sure of winning the tournament before it embarked on the journey to Thailand?
“Well, we were pretty confident of doing well there as we had an extremely good side. The practice sessions we had, the guidance we received from our coaches as well as the seniors, the determination of our boys and our love for Oman all combined to strengthen our belief that we were capable of playing well and our resolve that we would do our best. We did exactly that throughout the tournament,” said Kumble.
Kuwait players were seen celebrating wildly as soon as the final ended in a tie with Jeel Tanna’s runout on the last ball. What was the scene like in Oman’s camp?
“We were in a fix in the beginning, a little stressed too, as we were chasing victory and there was one run and one ball left to be the winner and Jeel got run out. Suddenly when we saw Kuwait players celebrating, we realized that we hadn’t lost either and were also equal part of the celebration. The party, then, took no time to begin,” added the captain wearing a broad smile.
Which was the better team in the final will remain unanswered but Oman was clearly the best bowling side of the tournament, leaving all batting line-ups in tatters. Oman’s Kevin Stagy Kattokaran emerged as the highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps, followed closely by Sanjaya Ravindra (15 and Amanpreet Singh Sirah (10).
Who in his view was the most impressive?
“All of them were outstanding in their own way. Kevin made life difficult for our opponents and looked threatening all the time. Sanjaya was consistent in his line and length and gave nothing away. Amanpreet was the team’s spearhead who fetched us wickets at the most critical moments. Yash Mehta, Jeel Tanna and Adeel Abbas made vital contributions too, to the team’s victories,” stressed Kumble, who studies in Indian School Muscat.
Oman’s batting performance in the tournament was not as good as its bowling and fielding and the tournament statics strengthen this view. Of the top three sides in the tournament, Oman scored a total of 549 runs from 6 games including 37 fours and only two sixes. Kuwait on the other hand had a great tournament, scoring a whopping 939 runs from 5 matches, including 64 fours and 7 sixes. Its game against China was abandoned due to rain. Hong Kong amassed 870 runs in six outings with 59 fours and 13 sixes. Only Neev Poojari and Adeel Abbas scored more than hundred runs for Oman while nobody else could score even a total of 50 runs in the tournament. One of the reasons for Oman’s low aggregate was its team bowling first and blowing teams away for small totals, three of them for less than 100.
But does the captain think his batsmen underperformed?
“No, I don’t think so. We were okay, but we could certainly have done much better as our batting unit had immense talent,” he said.
Having realized the team’s ultimate goal of bringing home the trophy, what in the captain’s view was their biggest strength in the tournament?
“While we performed as a unit, credit must go to the spinners who were remarkable all through the competition. However, the biggest plus to me was the team spirit and motivation from our coach and team management who always ensured a positive environment in and around the practice sessions. Our coach showed immense faith in the ability of his boys to achieve the lofty team goals,” explained Kumble.
But did he at any point of time think things could have transpired differently?
“Well, everyone possessed fighting spirit and played their role well. Personally, I feel I could have been more responsible to ensure the cup was brought home by winning rather than a tie,” he said.
What was the biggest lesson he learnt as a captain on the tour?
“I must first thank Oman Cricket for showing trust in my ability to lead the team in a big international tournament and thank all those as well whose prayers and blessings helped us succeed. To me, this tournament presented a great opportunity to represent Oman and I learnt many things handling players of different types, talent and temperament. I enjoyed every little innings I played and was fortunate to have been given a strong team who lived up to everyone’s expectations and performed under immense pressure. Being Oman captain was a demanding job, but I always believed, and learnt, that hard work and dedication pays,” Kumble remarked.