By Tony McWatt
The results produced by the Canadian National Men’s cricket team
during its warm-up tour to Oman in preparation for its participation
the December Malaysia-hosted ICC Challenge League Final Round
were almost near perfect and as good as anyone could have asked
for. The Canadians played seven T20I and three ODI matches in Oman, winning
six of the former and two of the latter. In the process, they also clinched the
two Championship titles that were on offer, emerging as champions of both the
four-nation 2022 T20I Desert Cup involving Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman as
well as the three-match Bilateral Series against their hosts.
It was a most admirable, highly encouraging team performance by the Canadians
in both formats. In the four-nation T20I Tournament they played with an almost
perfect record of six wins and just one loss from seven matches played. In the
three-match ODI Series against their Oman hosts, they easily won the first,
suffered from a wholly uncharacteristic walkabout to be dismissed for 97 all
out in losing the second, but then immediately recovered to win the third
handsomely by nine wickets.
For recently appointed new Canadian National Men’s Head Coach Pubudu
Dassanayake, the Oman Tour results would have been very pleasing. So too
for the team’s stand-in captain, its internationally acclaimed all-rounder Saad Bin
Zafar. As the chosen replacement for the team’s customary captain, Navineet
Dhaliwal, Zafar led excellently and from the front by his own outstanding
performances in key matches.
The Canadians batting in Oman was spectacularly led by Aaron Johnson who
scored over 400 runs in the T20 I matches to deservedly claim the Player of
the Tournament award at its conclusion. Johnson was ably supported at various
stages by almost all of his Canadian batting teammates, Matthew Spoors being
the only real example of a player having had a disappointing tour. Spoors had
only one innings of note, the 44 he scored in the return T20I encounter against
Saudi Arabia from his five crease appearances. As dynamic a fielder as he is and
with his off-spin bowling also available if needed he’s an important member of
the Canadian squad whose lack of batting form will be a concern as they head to
Similar concerns will revolve around Harsh Thaker’s off-spin bowling which
proved to be a bit expensive in his Oman Tour appearances. Thaker finished
the entire tour with just a single wicket to show for his efforts. More alarmingly
he conceded 168 runs from his 22 overs bowled at an economy rate of 7.63
which is fairly high for someone who typically bowls in the early overs.
Whatever concerns may have been created by Thaker’s lack of productivity in
terms of his wicket-taking will, however, likely be mitigated by the demonstrated
efficiencies of the four Canadian seamers Ammar Khalid, Jeremy Gordon, Dilon
Heyliger and Kaleem Sana Ur Rehman who were all among the wickets in
Oman. Kahild was the most outstanding of the lot with 13 wickets captured at
an average of 16 and with a 5.94 economy rate. Jeremy Gordon who was a last minute
addition to the squad also came into his own at the tail end of the tour,
capturing 7 wickets in just three matches played at an impressive 12.57 average
and 5.87 economy rate.
Canada’s two major spinners, Skipper Zafar with his wrist spin and Nikhil Dhutta
with his “mystery man” off-breaks also had encouraging tours. Zafar captured 9
wickets at an average of 23.89 and with a 5.81 economy rate. Dhutta’s figures
were 5 scalps claimed at a 36.2 average and 5.72 economy rate.
As previously indicated very encouraging overall performances which everyone
connected with Canadian cricket will be hoping can be duplicated if not
improved upon in Malaysia.