Picture Credit: X

Picture Credit: X

Experienced all-rounder Aqib Ilyas has been entrusted with the responsibility of leading Oman at the forthcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, to be jointly hosted by West Indies and the USA from June 1-29.

Ilyas replaces long-serving skipper Zeeshan Maqsood at the team’s helm and the 15-member announced on Wednesday doesn’t have many surprises. Maqsood had captained Oman on 92 occasions.

National team head coach and Oman Cricket’s chief development officer Duleep Mendis has reposed faith in his experienced players, with nine of the team members having featured in Oman’s previous participation at the T20 World Cup in 2021.

Among the six players who will be making their debut at the T20 World Cup are specialist batters, Kashyap Prajapati and Khalid Kail, wicketkeeper Pratik Athavale, spinner Shakeel Ahmad, and all-rounders Shoaib Khan and Rafiullah.

Skipper Ilyas and Maqsood along with Mohammad Nadeem, Ayaan Khan, Rafiullah, Mehran Khan and Shoaib Khan are designated all-rounders while the pace attack will be spearheaded by Bilal Khan, Fayyaz Butt, and Kaleemullah. Shakeel Ahmad is the specialist spinner, who will be supported by Ilyas, Maqsood and Ayaan in the spin department.

Athavale and Naseem Khushi will be the two wicketkeepers in the squad.

Oman played their maiden ICC T20 World Cup in 2016 in India and four players from the team - Maqsood, Nadeem, Mehran and Bilal - still continue to play key roles for the national side. The quartet were joined by Ilyas, Butt, Kaleemullah, Khushi and Ayaan at the 2021 T20 World Cup that was jointly hosted by Oman and the UAE.

Four reserves were also named on Wednesday and among them are Jatinder Singh, Samay Shrivastava, Sufyan Mehmood and Jay Odedra.

‘Excited to take over as captain’

I am truly honoured to be entrusted with the captaincy," said Aqib Ilyas, brimming with enthusiasm. "It’s a huge responsibility, and I aim to lead the team to many victories. We are preparing rigorously for the World Cup, and the recent ACC Premier Cup has provided us with invaluable preparation."

Ilyas expressed his “thanks to Oman Cricket” for “believing in him”.

Highlighting the team's ambitions, Ilyas affirmed, "Our goal is to qualify for the next round. We are not merely making up the numbers; we are determined to showcase our talent and prove that our journey to the World Cup was no fluke."

Coach Duleep Mendis shared his optimism, and said, "I have high hopes for our boys under Aqib Ilyas's leadership. With a balanced team, we are capable of surprising a few nations in the West Indies."

Reflecting on the transition, Mendis paid tribute to former skipper Zeeshan Maqsood [Shani], acknowledging his remarkable contribution to Oman Cricket. "Shani has rendered yeoman service as a skipper," Mendis remarked. "He is among the best Oman has ever produced, and even won the Cricketer of the Year award among Associate Nations in 2022. We want him to play freely as an all-rounder, his contribution will be vital."

The former Sri Lankan Test star, who will be leading Oman to their third ICC Men’s T20 World Cup appearance, said: “We wish to make an impact at the World Cup and with a balanced team, we are capable of surprising a few nations in the West Indies.”

The squad, dominated by versatile all-rounders, features a mix of seasoned campaigners and promising World Cup debutants, signalling Oman's intent to make a mark on the global stage.

Facing formidable opponents in their group, including defending champions England, Australia, Namibia and Scotland, Oman aims to defy odds and leave an indelible mark on the tournament.

Oman squad: Aqib Ilyas (captain), Zeeshan Maqsood, Kashyap Prajapati, Pratik Athavale (wk), Ayaan Khan, Shoaib Khan, Mohammad Nadeem, Naseem Khushi (wk), Mehran Khan, Bilal Khan, Rafiullah, Kaleemullah, Fayyaz Butt, Shakeel Ahmad. Reserves: Jatinder Singh, Samay Shrivastava, Sufyan Mehmood, Jay Odedra.

Officials: Duleep Mendis (head coach), Evert Laubscher (assistant coach), Sean Novak (physio), Mazhar Khan (coach co-ordinator), Zeeshan Siddiqui (video analyst), Champaka Ramanayake (bowling coach), Alkesh Joshi (team manager), Dr Manjunath (team doctor), Varun Khimji (media manager) and Amjad Khan (masseur).

(With Inputs from Press Release)