Cricket Captain 2018: Omani Odyssey!

It was both an honour and a privilege to perform the dual role of Team Manager and Coach of the Oman Men’s Cricket Team at the T20I World Cup in India. I’m immensely proud of the effort of the squad and how competitive we were at various times in the tournament. I’m only sorry that we were unable to achieve even one victory for the people of Muscat and beyond to celebrate.

Here’s a recap of how our matches played out.

Match One versus Ireland

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Despite losing the toss and being put into bat, we soon reached 82-1 against Test nation Ireland. At the top of the order, Khawar Ali’s 38-ball 54 laid the platform for a competitive total before Aaqib Ilyas’ 42 not out from thirty deliveries helped us kick on. Frustratingly, very few runs came from the last two overs. Seamer’s Shane Getkate’s three-wicket over and Craig Young’s outstanding analysis of 2-17 from four overs, saw us collapse from 148-5 to 149-9!

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We kept Ireland in check during the powerplay but our spinners lacked both control and penetration as Ireland coasted towards victory courtesy of messrs. Stirling 74 not out and Porterfield 73. Only a late run out of the latter helped us avoid a ten-wicket defeat.

Match Two versus Netherlands

Again, we lost the toss but this time were made to bowl first. What’s frustrating about Netherlands massive total of 216-5 is that, in part at least, our bowlers performed well. Spin duo Mehrab Khan (2-40) and Khawar Ali (1-31) were much improved from the Ireland match but a third spinner, the experienced Ajay Lalcheta, brought in having been omitted for the opening match, was expensive, conceding fifty-two wicketless runs from his four overs. Who else but Ryan ten Doeschate (67 not out) was destroyer in chief.

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Khawar Ali then followed his 54 in the opening match by carrying his bat when making an excellent 86 not out. He faced exactly half the innings’ deliveries and twenty-five of his runs were gloriously driven through the extra cover region as the above graphic demonstrates.

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He shared an opening stand of 54 with Zeeshan Maqsood. Maqsood swashbuckled 35 from just sixteen deliveries to keep the Dutch honest. Ali then went onto share a stand of 70 with gloveman Naseem Khushi. Khushi only fell for 30 to the last delivery of the innings.

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Our effort of 173-6 is something to be proud of but having conceded 216, we fell short by 43 runs. As with the batting, it was a player with exhaustive experience of county cricket that proved the difference. Roelof van der Merwe finished with figures of 5-25. Take away the county stars and there really isn’t much between the two teams.

Match Three versus Bangladesh

In our final match against the mighty Bangladesh, we made it a hat-trick of toss losses and if we thought that Netherlands’ 216 was an imposing total, The Tigers 270-4 was always going to be an ask to chase down!

If you blinked, you’ll have missed Tamim Iqbal’s amazing 101 from a meagre 47 balls. Animul Haque (54 from 26) helped Tamim put on a gargantuan 153 for the first wicket. Shakib Al-Hasan then smacked 62 from just 22 deliveries to propel Bangladesh to within sight of 300!

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Debutant Jayesh Odedra’s international debut (4-0-63-0) was one to forget and he may never get another chance.

Mehran Khan’s 2-56 meant that he finished the tournament as our leading wicket taker with four victims at 34.00 apiece. His economy rate of 11.33 is nothing to write home about however.

Khawar Ali followed up his 54 and unbeaten 84 with… a golden duck, to end his World Cup on a low. He did finish as our leading run-scorer with 140 runs at an average of 70 and an impressive strike-rate of 141.40.

Against Bangladesh, it was his namesake Aamer Ali (28 from 18) and Alyas Iqbal (38 from 20) who put on an entertaining 58 to help us put a score on the board and avoid a truly embarrassing scoreline. Ilyas finished the tournament with 91 runs at 45.50. Noorul Riaz, a thirty-nine-year-old batsman who before the competition had played only one List A game… and duly ducked in it, followed up his nine against Netherlands on international debut with an ability demonstrating 39 not out. Throughout the tournament our batting unit fully committed to playing a selfless and attacking brand of cricket.

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The efforts of Ali, Ilyas, Riaz and co. amounted to 150-9 from our allocation. A respectable effort against a Test nation but still 120 runs short of parity.

In summary, I’d like to put on record my appreciation for the efforts of the team during the World Cup. As hinted at, every individual in the squad committed to the tactics of the collective and gave their all in the pursuit of glory. Though we were soundly beaten, we did manage to express ourselves against two Test playing nations and the most experienced non-Test playing nation. I’d like to thank the Omani Cricket Board and the fans for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and the support provided. Having reached the conclusion of my contract, we part on good terms and I wish all involved with Oman cricket the very best in years to come.

European Cricket Champions League

How about this?

To help spread the game, let’s create a European Cricket Champions League. Below I’ve selected twenty possible teams for the inaugural tournament. I’ve selected the countries first and foremost by population but with previous/current cricketing pedigree helping the likes of Jersey squeeze in ahead of for example: Austria. Of course there could be more groups with more teams from more countries. Maybe the format could be eight groups of four teams but this is a starting point. I’ve kept it simple by sticking to capital cities for the teams and I’ve then organised them into geographically practical groups. Obviously the teams in Group A don’t have as far to travel for a match Athens do when playing Moscow but something’s got to give.

Group A

Dublin – Ireland

Edinburgh – Scotland

London – England

St Helier – Jersey

St Peter Port – Guernsey

Group B

Amsterdam – Netherlands

Brussels – Belgium

Madrid – Spain

Paris – France

Rome – Italy

Group C

Berlin – Germany

Copenhagen – Denmark

Prague – Czechia/Czech Republic

Stockholm – Sweden

Warsaw – Poland

Group D

Athens – Greece

Bucharest – Romania

Budapest – Hungary

Kiev – Ukraine

Moscow – Russia

Let’s say that each team plays eight matches. They play the four other teams in their group home and away. The format is Twenty20 with 2 points for a win, 1 for a tie and 0 for a defeat. The top two teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. The team with the most points, or if tied then the team that has scored the most runs (Or taken most wickets, etc etc.) in the competition, has home advantage in the last eight. For the semi-finals, the two teams that won their QF by the largest margin gain home advantage for the semi-finals. The final is played at a predetermined neutral venue unless of course that team has qualified for the final, in which case lucky them!

This would be a great opportunity to help continental cricketers develop their skills in a competitive, meaningful and exciting environment. Now of course the teams could just end up being national teams but maybe this would inspire other cities to create teams. For example, Italy creates a four-team league with entrants from Rome, Turin, Florence and Naples. They hold their own qualifying tournament and the winner qualifies for the European Cricket Champions League. It wouldn’t even have to require a full season, just a short-term tournament but measures would need to be in place to ensure some squad continuity season by season and possibly even a local player quota in each team.

Of course this idea isn’t entirely original. It’s very much along the lines of European football but if it can make stars out of Polish or Ukrainian cricketers and get people in those nations playing the game then great. Teams could have the option of one or two non-European players to supplement their seventeen-man squad. The cricket calendar is already congested but the players likely to participate in this competition are unlikely to be playing in franchise leagues around the globe… for now anyway! If Copenhagen signed a Ugandan cricketer and he starred for them in the tournament then that would help cricket all around. Kids in Uganda would be inspired, pick up a bat or ball and want to play the game, on the street and possibly in Europe’s leading cricket competition. Denmark themselves would’ve obviously do well and the player in question might end up getting an IPL or Big Bash gig. All corners of the globe could be represented in the competition, European players could end up playing in the South American equivalent and these players could end up playing in the IPL etc… or maybe those competitions will have been superseded by such tournaments as the European Cricket Champions League!

I could suggest team names like London Lions, Edinburgh Royals or Dublin Shamrocks but the continental teams will of course posses native names. You wouldn’t expect teams to be called Berlin Bears of Stockholm Sixers for example but might find Les Chevaliers de Paris. Now of course London would be expected to win and English players deserve to play as much as anybody but maybe some sort of criteria could be put in place to limit the amount of full international or even professionals participating, at least in the early years whilst the other teams/nations evolve.

The same league concept could be implemented on other continents as well.

Could we see Tokyo versus Seoul or Pyongyang versus Beijing in the Asian version?

To open the game to the world could help develop it tremendously and highlight how stuck in time we are, even when we think that the game is constantly evolving. I can’t say that I’m a Formula One fan but when I caught a glimpse of maybe the Malaysian Grand Prix which was held on the streets at night, the variety made it more interesting. Maybe in Japan matches would be held on rooftops or in China be played in huge stadiums.

Maybe we could discover new grounds like that in Rwanda…

https://www.cricketbuildshope.org

I’ve previously written about how I can’t believe that America doesn’t have a successful T20 competiton…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2016/11/06/stateside-smash/

Canada got one first. Hong Kong have one as well. Let’s have a Europe wide cricket competition to bring the game to the continental masses, to the amphitheatres of Rome, the Streets of Amsterdam, the bars of Greece and beyond!

What do you guys think? Is there a place for a city based European Cricket Champions League? Could such a tournament help steal some of the sporting monopoly from football? Could such an idea work in other parts of the world?

Many thanks for reading and keep following, keep liking and keep blogging yourself if that’s your thing!

Disclaimer: Apologies for the appalling image at the top of this post. I might try and source another one later!

China’s Batting as Brittle as Porcelain… or Fine China Even!

China Women succumbed to a record-breaking defeat at the hands of UAE in a T20I encounter in Bangkok today. Both the margin of defeat (189 runs) and their brittle batting effort (14 all out) mean the players enter the record books for all the wrong reasons!

With T20I status now applied all across the globe, it’s to be hoped that such humbling defeats don’t discourage players from emerging nations and that cricket continues to evolve into a truly worldwide sport.

It was Kings of Convenience who said that “Failure is always the best way to learn”…

Looking forward to China posting competitive totals in the future.

Vince Voyages Trans-Tasman

James Vince played a typically James Vince-like innings today. The sometime England batsman made 28 from 25 deliveries for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8044/scorecard/1152540/perth-scorchers-vs-sydney-sixers-30th-match-big-bash-league-2018-19

Vince has cut short his time with New Zealand side Auckland Aces to represent his second Sydney side and I have to say I’m disappointed in him. Having signed for the Kiwi outfit, you’d like to think that he would’ve fulfilled his contract but no! He got a better offer from a more fashionable side in a more glamorous league in the same city he’s represented before but for a different team and negotiated a way out. Maybe it was already in his contract that he could depart for the razzmatazz of the Big Bash.

We see these sort of short stints from overseas players in England and aside from T20s, Australians in particular have always had no qualms about representing a different county from summer to summer but even in a global franchise world, you’d like to think that there can be a place for some sort of loyalty and honour?!

Predicting England’s Next Test Cap

Who will be England Test cricketer number 690?

Silly Point has a go at guessing who will be next to don the Test whites (Or cream!) of England.

Will it be a player plucked from the county scene, a franchise star or a groomed England Lion?

Silly Point predicts that England’s next new Test cricketer will be… Jason Roy!

Whilst we’re at it, we may as well do ODIs as well.

Silly Point boldly predicts that England’s next debutante in One-Day International cricket will be… Jofra Archer!

In the past, some of England’s selections have been…. boggling! The days of picking rabbits out of hats seem in the distant past however. As for the team’s next new blood in T20Is, how about… Jamie Overton?

Such is both the competition and make-up of England’s current squads in each format, that it’s difficult to see how and where new players can sneak in. A recall for an already capped player wouldn’t necessarily be the backwards step that it would’ve been considered in the past, only an acknowledgement of England’s current riches.

Players such as Joe Clarke (Off-field activities) and Matthew Parkinson (Injury) would’ve been serious contenders but I was dissuaded due to their current circumstances. Of course they may yet be England’s next new caps!

Disclaimer: Please note that I’ve ignored players such as Joe Denly and Olly Stone who are uncapped at Test level but in the squad for the West Indies series. My selections are based on further ahead or if any other players are to be called up during said tour.

Oz go Backwards to go Forwards… or Sideways… or Backwards Again?!

Australia have gone all retro-England on us with their latest ODI squad selection. Potential but inconsistent T20 performers Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short and Ben McDermott have all been ditched to make way for the likes of less explosive but more reliable players such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. Though Marsh has done well in the IPL, you can’t help but think that Australia have pushed the panic button… and kept pressing! The selectors can’t seem to make their mind up about Peter Handscomb and one innings from him in the Big Bash seems to have confused them even further. All this fuels pressure on their bowling attack to limit opposition to totals that were the norm five years ago but not today.

Could it all click for Oz at this summer’s World Cup or will their fall continue?

Please don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg

Zazai to Fly!

One of the reasons that I’m looking forward to seeing a couple of Afghanistan matches at Headingley come this year’s ODI World Cup is… Hazratullah Zazai!

I’ve detailed the destructive opening batsman’s abilities previously…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/10/14/if-theres-one-to-watch/

He’s started the Bangladesh Premier League in some style by smacking 78 from just 41 deliveries for Dhaka Dynamites against Rajshahi Kings.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8653/scorecard/1169380/dhaka-dynamites-vs-rajshahi-kings-2nd-match-bangladesh-premier-league-2018-19

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera walloped 140 from only 74 balls but still ended up on the losing side against New Zealand today. In Colin Munro and Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand have some destructive hitters of their own.

Trans-Tasman, Australia’s Marcus Stoinis is producing the goods for Melbourne Stars in this season’s Big Bash.

All around the world there’s some big hitting talent that will be congregating in England this summer. Could we see some record-breaking performances come the World Cup?

Please don’t forget to check out my YoutTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg