Bilal Khan cements his place as 'real weapon' in Oman's bowling armoury

As his team eye top spot in the new Cricket World Cup League Two, the Peshawar native hopes to attract the attention of franchise bosses

Oman bowler Bilal Khan, right, 'should be playing at a higher level', according to coach Duleep Mendis. Courtesy ICC
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Cricket World Cup League Two

Oman, UAE, Namibia

Al Amerat, Muscat

 

Results

Oman beat UAE by five wickets

UAE beat Namibia by eight runs

 

Fixtures

Wednesday January 8 –Oman v Namibia

Thursday January 9 – Oman v UAE

Saturday January 11 – UAE v Namibia

Sunday January 12 – Oman v Namibia

Oman and UAE might be the leading cricket countries in the region, but theirs is not exactly the fiercest of rivalries.

Noisy neighbours? Hardly. Oman go about their work virtually incommunicado.

And yet they have quietly established themselves as one of the leading teams beyond the Test sphere in recent times.

If they win all three remaining matches in their home tri-series with Namibia and UAE, Oman will go top of the new Cricket World Cup League Two.

And they have the T20 World Cup in Australia to look forward to later this year. It will be their second appearance in that tournament.

While UAE players have found opportunities for themselves in franchise cricket, Oman’s have yet to be noticed.

In the case of Bilal Khan, for instance, there might be a gem hidden from view of franchise bosses.

The left-arm swing bowler was the leading wicket-taker at the T20 World Cup Qualifier in UAE last year.

More recently, his three-wicket burst with the new-ball all but won the opening match of the current series for his side against UAE on Sunday.

Bilal is the sort of profile of cricketer that could so easily have ended up in UAE.

He left his native Peshawar to work as an office boy in a company in Muscat, on the proviso he helped out the staff cricket team.

He says it was just by chance that he ended in Oman rather than anywhere else, but he is grateful for the opportunities that have come his way since he arrived.

“I know that cricket in UAE is good, but I am here because of destiny,” Bilal said. “My friends suggested I come here and play for Passage to India. My boss, Mohandas, I found him to be a very good man.

“He supported me always, and what I am today is all because of him. He treated me like a son.

“I played first-class cricket in Pakistan, but I didn’t get a chance there. Several times, they rejected us when we needed support.

“So I came here to Oman. I performed pretty well, and they called me to national camps, and from 2014 till now I have been playing for Oman.”

The 31-year-old seamer, who says he based his game on watching Wasim Akram and Zaheer Khan when he was growing up, would jump at the chance to play in a leading franchise league.

“I would love to play any league, anywhere,” Bilal said. “We are working hard, and leagues like that are good motivation for us.

"In Nepal there are leagues, in Pakistan, everywhere. Hopefully, we will get a chance.”

Duleep Mendis, the former Sri Lanka international who has overseen Oman’s rise in recent years, reckons Bilal’s merits have not gone unnoticed beyond the country.

“Unfortunately, sometimes he has got those breaks when we have had cricket here, and because of that he has been unable to go,” Mendis said.

“Bilal is becoming a real weapon in our side. The last spell he had in UAE, when we beat Hong Kong to get qualification for Australia, was brilliant.

“Not only at this level. Even at Test level, I think anyone would have found that spell difficult to counter.

“He bowled so well in that game, but even in the past, as well as now, he is bowling like that. I feel he should be playing at a higher level.”

Cricket World Cup League Two

Oman, UAE, Namibia

Al Amerat, Muscat

 

Results

Oman beat UAE by five wickets

UAE beat Namibia by eight runs

 

Fixtures

Wednesday January 8 –Oman v Namibia

Thursday January 9 – Oman v UAE

Saturday January 11 – UAE v Namibia

Sunday January 12 – Oman v Namibia

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