T20 World Cup: Oman Cricket's Keralite curator ready for dream assignment

Less than a decade after grass was installed, and two weeks since Cyclone Shaheen, Al Amerat will raise the curtain on the World Cup

When Oman line up against Papua New Guinea in their first T20 World Cup fixture on home soil on Sunday, it is not only their players who might be feeling nerves.

This being cricket, there is likely to be plenty of scrutiny on how the playing surface performs at a ground that is less than 10 years old, and is hosting its most high-profile event yet.

Anoop Cholath Kandy, the curator at the Oman Cricket Academy in Al Amerat, could be forgiven for feeling protective.

“We consider our ground as our child,” Anoop said. “We want to be with them 24 hours a day.

“We love to be with this ground all the time. We don’t like people coming and walking on our grass.”

He will make an exception for the great and good of the world game next week, of course.

The Indian groundsman has been an integral part of the evolution of the game in Oman over the past decade.

After a career in the game that included playing, captaincy, administration then umpiring, Anoop became a groundsman in his native state of Kerala.

He became highly regarded within Indian cricket before being encouraged to apply for a position at a new ground near Muscat.

He said his first impressions did not immediately compel him to want to leave behind his family and move across the Arabian Sea. But he was persuaded to do so by the vision of Pankaj Khimji, the chairman of Oman Cricket.

“I came for one day,” Anoop said. “There was one field here, and it was mid-June – too hot.

“I went outside and it was 50 degrees. I said, ‘I can’t do this’. But then I had an interview with Pankaj sir, and I saw that he was so dedicated.

“Everybody told me I had to take this challenge, and if I did I would get more opportunities.

“If you go to different places, you get more knowledge, so I wanted to take up the challenge.”

Getting the ground ready for the main event has not been without its hurdles. Oman Cricket Academy has played host to three one-day international series in recent weeks, meaning plenty of traffic on the wickets.

A number of teams, including England, have used Muscat as a training base, too.

Anoop has been unperturbed by the workload. He planned the rotation of pitches from August until the end of October. The four pitches in the centre of the ground for the World Cup have been unused since March

Even the small matter of Cyclone Shaheen, which struck Muscat with devastating effect at the start of this month, has not deterred Anoop and his colleagues.

“It is really a dream come true for us, and I like taking on challenges,” he said of readying his ground for a World Cup.

“I have no worries. Whenever you prepare a wicket, even if it is for domestic cricket, you prepare it as if you are doing it for an international match. That is how we think about it.

“It will be exciting. It is a dream for any curator.”

Updated: October 15th 2021, 4:04 AM