Dream come true


Chief curator Mohammed Ishaq with his team of assistants who have made Oman Cricket’s dream turn true. O.K. Mohammed Ali / TIMES OF OMAN

In what is billed as a historic match, defending champions Assarain CT will face runners-up Muscat CT in a A Division match.

Historic it is by virtue of being the inaugural domestic match to be played on new turf strip with green outfield at Al Amerat tomorrow.

Both teams boast of national players who are not new to playing under these conditions. The teams will be attired in coloured clothing and will play with white balls and have black sight screens on both ends.

Speaking to Times Sport, an ecstatic Oman Cricket (OC) general secretary, Madhu Jesrani said a green outfield with turf strip is dream come true. "Everyone was waiting for this to happen for a long time and as the first official match will be played on this new ground, it will be history happening right in front of us," said Jesrani.

"We had promised to have a green turf ground and I am really happy that we have now fulfilled that promise to the cricket fans in the country," Jesrani said.

According to Jesrani, the ground will help the young cricketers who are aspiring to find a place in the national team. "This will not only help our national team but also those young players who wish to find a place in the squad," he said.
 
Teams excited
The A division team officials have also expressed their happiness as most of the teams are expected to play their crucial games in the coming days in the new ground.

"Our boys are on top of the world. Their enthusiasm and level of confidence has gone up because they all are excited to play in the green turf ground," said Vinu Mathew, team manager of Assarain CT.

Assarain CT is currently on top of the table with 18 points from four games while Muscat CT has only five points from four games so far.

"They (Muscat CT) has bagful of national team players who have got the experience of playing on a turf wicket in the past but it all depends upon which team fares well on the day," said Vinu.

Zeeshan Maqsood is the only national team player in Assarain squad while they have few others who boast of with turf wicket playing experience.

Interestingly, Oman Cricket has given permission to all the A Division teams to have their net practice sessions at the KGK Farm in Barka.

"We are thankful to Kanak Khimji, chairman of Oman Cricket for giving us the opportunity to have our net sessions there. We had two sessions and all our players had a great time utilising the facilities there. We are not going to take this match lightly. We have to play the whole 50 overs but I would say both the sides are capable of going on top," Vinu added.

Muscat CT skipper Hemal Mehta said the match is 'crucial' for his team.
"We have just won one game while we lost the rest it is important for us to comeback and I think this turf wicket is a perfect platform for that," said the veteran player who is also the Oman team captain.

Al Turki NMC boss Chaitanya Khimji congratulated OC for opening the green outfield. "I think they have done a great job. I must congratulate everyone at Oman Cricket for building this. It is certainly a dream come true for everyone here," he said. Al Turki NMC will face Passage to India on Friday at the same venue.

"This is a great opportunity for all the cricketers in the country. Everyone wanted it to happen and we cannot wait to watch the first match on Thursday,"said Passage to India chief  K.K. Mohandas.

Enhance CT skipper Guru Prasanna also said he is thrilled to play on the new ground as his side will face Times of Oman (TOO) on December 14.

"I am really thrilled. This was something that I was waiting for years to happen and finally the ground is ready. Our team is also excited to play here and I am looking forward for our match against TOO on this ground," Guru said.

Shahzad Raza, captain of Times of Oman 'A' team, which has already upset established teams like Muscat CT and Passage to India this season,  is glad that finally cricket will be played in 'natural conditions' in Oman thanks to sincere efforts made by Oman Cricket.

"When we play our first match on turf pitch on December 14 it will end a personal 18-year wait to play cricket on grass and a real pitch in Oman. I had come to Oman in 1994 straight from the green fields of Islamabad where even a total of 200 was defendable in 50 overs if you had good bowlers in your side.

"Here in Oman, no total was safe as anything was gettable on the hard cemented pitches that offered no help at all to the bowlers. The hard and barren grounds would easily cut a player's career short as many of them were forced to retire prematurely with troubled knees or ailing joints. I am sure the current and the new crop of players would be much relieved and happy to find grassy grounds and turf pitches to play on."

Long wait over
The Times of Oman captain believes with the opening of a green ground and other infrastructure, the beginning has been made for international cricket coming to Oman.
"I can see international cricket happening in Oman very soon. Oman has the best cricket talent in the whole Gulf and with the introduction of proper infrastructure and prudent planning; Sultanate will rise as a major cricket force in the region," he added.

Oman's top umpire A.R. Srinivasan who will officiate the match along with Ahmed Amjad said the inaugural match will be an unforgettable moment for cricket fans.

"I have been waiting for this day for several years and am excited at the thought of being a part of the first match ever to be played on the turf pitch in Oman. Playing on our own turf pitches will give our players and umpires an experience that they have never been exposed to in the past on our home grounds," said the experienced umpire. 

Meanwhile, OC chief curator Mohammed Ishaq said the wicket is ready for the match. "It is all set for the game and this is going to be a perfect wicket to play. If there is no rain certainly we can have a great game," said the internationally acclaimed curator who along with his team comprising of Waqas Hussain and Mohammed Khurram prepared the wicket.

Meanwhile OC board member Dad Mohammed Al Balushi was equally excited saying it's a dream come true. "We were thinking about having it for years and I am glad it has finally happened. The ground will also help the Omanis in a great way."

Squads:
Muscat: Hemal Mehta (captain), Vaibhav Wategaonkar (v-captain), Rajesh Ranpura, Mohammed Asad, Vamshi Ram, Swapnil Khadye, Ganesh Narsumaiyya, Karan Pandya,  Adnan Iliyas,Yousuf Balushi, Monis Ansari Wilson Burboz (Manager/Player), Rakesh Sharma and Syed Ahsanuddin.

Assarain: Arif Hussain (captain) Vinu Mathew, (Manager & Player), Arun Poulose, Zeeshan Maqsood, Fiaz Ul-Hassan, Sindo Michael, Ramkumar, Mohammed Nadeem, V S Shiju, Asif Balushi, Mohammed Abbas, Khurram Khan, Mahesh Salian and Latheef P.

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