However that could possibly be about to alter come Sunday as Oman, alongside the neighboring United Arab Emirates, is about to host the T20 World Cup.
Initially scheduled to happen in India, it was determined earlier this 12 months that the event can be moved amid the Covid-19 pandemic. So Oman, which solely constructed its first grass cricket pitch 10 years in the past, provided its companies.
“By no means has an affiliate nation [on the International Cricket Council] hosted a World Cup. And never simply that, has additionally performed in a single concurrently. It is a massive excessive for us in Oman.”
It wasn’t so way back that the concept of internet hosting a world cricket event would have been unthinkable. There have been a handful of brown pitches with concrete wickets within the middle, certainly one of which was later up to date to astroturf.
Annually, stones and pebbles can be painstakingly faraway from the outfield and sand positioned on the floor. However that hardly made the prospect of diving for a catch any extra interesting.
“You by no means dived,” explains Khimji. “You possibly can get second, third diploma burns from having pores and skin scraped off — it was vicious earth.”
For sure, enjoying circumstances have been dramatically improved forward of Oman’s T20 World Cup opener in opposition to Papua New Guinea on the Al-Amerat Cricket Stadium, positioned 18 kilometers exterior the capital of Muscat.
The stadium’s seating — beforehand comprising of 52 park benches shaded below timber — has been upgraded to a 5,000-seat infrastructure; the venue’s lighting system has been enhanced and a press field and media middle have additionally been added — all within the house of 90 days.
This 12 months marks the seventh version of the T20 World Cup: 45 matches which run from October 17 to November 14.
Oman will contest a preliminary group that features Papua New Guinea, Scotland and Bangladesh, from which the highest two groups qualify for the Tremendous 12s — the later stage of the event.
Backed by 4,000 house followers at every sport, Khimji is assured that this Omani crew — “a superb classic” — can qualify for the following spherical. He provides, although, that on-field success is simply a part of the intention.
“If I can put Oman within the minds of the cricketing viewers globally and the way stunning it’s, after which even when one in 50 begin wanting up on the web and say: ‘Hey, what’s taking place in Oman?’ and begin looking Oman, that itself might be a serious accomplishment,” he says.
In accordance with Khimji, soccer, crusing and fishing — which advantages from the nation’s intensive shoreline — are all well-liked in Oman.
The cricket crew, in the meantime, is made up of part-time gamers who stability their sporting commitments with nine-to-five jobs.
“Each time they play a event, they must safe permission from their so-called employers to alleviate them to go on nationwide crew responsibility,” says Khimji.
“Typically, it is a problem. As a rule, these employers have been very, very supportive … A few of them have retained their jobs, a few of them have been placed on a stipend each time they exit to play.”
The pandemic has delayed the launch of a grassroots program in Oman, which might see cricket performed for 4 hours every week in faculties throughout the nation.
As soon as this basis is in place, the standout gamers would then have the possibility to play skilled or semi-professional cricket additional down the road.
However for individuals who will symbolize Oman at this 12 months’s World Cup — nearly all of whom are expat gamers — the rewards will not essentially be monetary.
“In 10 years’ time, they’re going to be telling their youngsters tales about how their father performed cricket on the World Cup,” says Khimji.
“I feel that is what it is all about now. They’re all enjoying for delight, ardour, household, nation, pals. I am very happy with the bunch.”
Earlier than these tales will be advised, an historic sporting second awaits for Oman because the T20 World Cup is simply the bowl of a ball and the swing of a bat away.