Oman would have faced losing cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup had a deadly storm that ripped through the Gulf state taken a slightly different path, according to the chairman of Oman’s cricket board.
At least 12 people were killed as strong winds and heavy rain swept through the country after Cyclone Shaheen made landfall in Oman on Sunday.
Video footage from Omani broadcasters showed vehicles submerged as people tried to make their way through muddy brown floodwater.
When its eye crossed land, the cyclone was carrying winds of 120-150km/h (75-93mph), Omani authorities said. It was throwing up waves of up to 10 metres (32 feet).
The Gulf state is set to host six Group B matches of the tournament at Al-Amerat near the capital Muscat, including three involving the home side.
Oman Cricket chairman Pankaj Khimji told Reuters news agency they were “very fortunate” to have missed the worst of the storm.
“We were so close to being virtually wiped out,” said Khimji.
“We had the cyclone only a few nautical miles north. It made the landfall there and it’s devastated that whole region and flooded the whole plain over there. Had this had happened over here in this area, I’d have said goodbye to the World Cup.”
While a handful of hospitality tents bore the brunt of the storm, the organisers were pleased with the greener look of the outfield following the intense rain.
“We got about three to four inches of rain,” said Khimji. “And that made the ground even more lush and greener, it looks even prettier now. It washed off all the dirt and sand.”
The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in India but was moved to the UAE and Oman due to a COVID-19 surge and Khimji said it was a huge honour for minnows of the cricket world to stage such a prestigious event.
“This cricket coming to Oman is gigantic,” he said. “To think that there will be tens of millions of people watching the first game, it’s overwhelming to an extent. How often will an associate country get a chance to host and play in the World Cup at the same time? This is unreal, I’m living a dream.”
The T20 World Cup gets under way on October 17.