Cricket World Cup: Shane Burger eyeing Oman with relish after two games in two years

OMAN, it’s going to be busy. After an extensive period of inactivity that has seen them play just two international games in almost two years, the calendar is suddenly looking a lot fuller for the Scotland men’s cricket team.

Having qualified for the delayed T20 World Cup prior to lockdown, Shane Burger and his players will head to the Middle East in late September and base themselves there for the following month – and longer if things go well.

The focus of the trip will be their three first-round World Cup games in Oman against the hosts, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Bangladesh, with the top two in the group making it through to join the big boys in the Super 12 stage.

Prior to that, the Saltires will also take on hosts Oman and PNG in four one-day internationals (ODIs) following the resumption of World Cricket League 2 (WCL2), part of the convoluted qualifying process for the 2023 50-over World Cup.

Those fixtures give Scotland a chance to assimilate themselves to Omani conditions before the start of the World Cup – although Burger insists the ODIs are just as important as the World Cup in his thinking.

“The fact that we’re going to be in Oman ahead of the World Cup gives us really good preparation,” says the South African. “I know it’s 50-over cricket initially but we see both tournaments – WCL2 and the T20 World Cup – as being as important as one another. If we can win the four ODIs and go to the top of the table then it really helps as qualifying for the 50-over World Cup is also very important to us.

“While we’re there we might as well stay the extra six or seven days and try to play some cricket and then build into the World Cup. Round one will all be in Oman so we’ll be based between there and Dubai for most of September and October.”

It is hard to escape the feeling that Scotland landed in the easier of the two first round World Cup groups and Burger doesn’t protest too vehemently, given Group A contains Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia.

“Many people would say we’ve done well to avoid some of the names in Group A,” added Burger who is still hopeful of bringing full member opposition to Scotland at some point in the next month.

“Sri Lanka, the Dutch and Ireland are all very strong and even Namibia on their day can do special things.

“But even in our group there will be big challenges. We’re playing Oman in Oman so home advantage could be a big factor for them. PNG did really well in the qualifiers and showed they have taken their game to another level and Bangladesh have just beaten Australia.

“So it won’t be an easy task, even if it might look the easier of the two groups. We will need to be at our best to get through.”

Should they do so then the likes of England, Australia and India all await in the second phase. And Burger won’t be happy just to be there.

“Scotland, traditionally, hasn’t really made an impact at a World Cup by winning big games and doing special things. But I believe that this group of players has the ability to do that and that includes getting into round two and taking out some full member sides.

“If we get through it’s not going to be us resting on our laurels and happy to be there. The way our group speaks about winning games of cricket, we’re confident we can take down full members in any version of the game but more so in the shortest version.

“If you look at the skillset of our players and the way that we play then T20 is probably the format that we can excel in.”

The most immediate challenge for Burger, however, will be to trim his initial 40-man squad down to a travelling party of just 15.

“We’ve got a trial series from August 17 to 19 where we’ll play six games of T20 cricket with 33 of our best players on the park at any given time. We’ll make more calls after that and take what we consider to be the best 15 to the World Cup.

“So we’ll know our squad by August 20. It’s exciting. But we have to make sure we have a very balanced group of 15 for when we leave the country on September 20 as there are going to be a lot of challenges ahead.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992