The tiny nation of Oman is a relative newcomer to the world of international cricket, having only gained associate status in 2014. It was an affiliate member for 14 years before that, but the sport of cricket doesn’t have a great history in this region, certainly not like that of its Asian rivals. Oman are one of the lowest ranked ICC associate cricket teams in the world and haven’t always had an easy time of things. However, with a strong nation of cricket loving expats, with many cricket-obsessed nations nearby, and with plenty of money waiting to be invested in the sport, its future could be bright.
Omani played their first senior international match in the 2002 ACC Trophy, where they failed to progress beyond the first round. They did record a win against Middle-Eastern rivals Qatar, but generally they were not a strong side. They improved quickly though and within a couple of years they looked like a capable national team. They qualified for the ICC Trophy and the Asia Cup within a few years of their first international match, and in 2005 they were the first affiliate member to compete in the ICC Trophy.
In 2014 their status was upgraded to associate member during an ICC conference that was held in Melbourne, Australia. At the time they were struggling in the World Cricket League and had recorded a very disappointing finish, but within a year they gained T20I status and qualified for the Twenty20 in 2016. This was by fair their biggest win to date, and one that would greatly advance their status within the game.
Jatinder Singh was one of Oman’s standout players during their successful Twenty20 qualifying campaign, and despite never going beyond 65 runs in a single game, he made it onto the tournament’s leading run scorer list. Zeeshan Siddiqui will also go down in their history, as his tireless performance against Namibia contributed massively to their success. Pakistani born Siddiqui is one of the veterans of the Omani side and may not feature for much longer, but the impact that he had on the team and on cricket in Oman will likely remain for many generations.
Oman have failed to qualify for many of the biggest events in cricket and have yet to make it to a ICC World Cup. They have had a few respectable finishes in other competitions though, particularly those hosted by the ACC. For instance, in the 2007 and 2015 ACC Twenty20 Cup, they finished in first place, tying with Afghanistan in the first instance and beating 5 other teams in the second. They have also recorded two third-place finishes in this tournament and have notched some impressive performances in the ACC Trophy as well.
In the World Cricket League Oman have struggled in the lower divisions. They finished second in Division Two in 2007, before finishing third in Division Three in 2011. Despite these results, they were relegated from Division Three in 2013 and then from Division Four in 2014.
Oman seem to be a long way from appearing in an ICC World Cup and truly cementing their place on the world stage. Their first appearance in the ICC Trophy, which is the qualifier for the World Cup, was in 2005. They were outclassed in the early stages by the competition’s better sides, with both Scotland and Netherlands recording comfortable victories against them. The tournament ended in much the same way it began, with Oman losing all five of their games. It was more or less the same story in 2009, and in 2014 they didn’t even qualify for this feeder tournament.
However, things looked just as bleak during the Twenty20 Qualifier tournaments, and they managed to pull some surprises out of the hat there. They finished 15th of 16th the first time they made an appearance and they failed to qualify for the following event, but after that, in 2015, they put in what was arguably their best result yet. Oman won three of their group games, with standout wins against Canada and Netherlands, and during the playoff stage they beat Namibia to advance to the semi-final.
That was as far as they went and they were seen off by Afghanistan, but that performance was enough to see Oman qualify for the 2016 Twenty20, their first major ICC event. It was also enough for them to acquire T20I status.
Oman is a small country, and one that is home to a lot of Pakistani and Indian expats. It is this population that has helped to boost the popularity of cricket in Oman, and it is this population that props-up the game on a national and international level. Around 1 in 10 cricketers playing in the national leagues are Arabs, and even this may be a token gesture, as Omani teams are required to have at least 1 Omani player, and that player must not be lower than no.5 in the team.