Bahrain’s senior men’s team will leave for Doha, Qatar, tomorrow to take part in the inaugural Gulf Cricket T20I Championship 2023.
The six-team tournament – also featuring Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE – begins next Friday with a clash between Bahrain and hosts Qatar.
“We’re heading to Doha five days in advance of our tournament opener so that our players have enough time to acclimatise to the conditions,” Bahrain head coach Bhaskar Pillai, who assumed charge last July, told the GDN.
“We will also get the chance to play at least one practice game against one of the other teams. That should help our preparations immensely.”
A 14-member squad, selected by Pillai, has a new captain at the helm in the form of top-order batter Umer Toor and the head coach is confident that the team will do well in the championship.
“Umer has a good cricketing brain and, even though he’s coming back from a long layoff after an ankle injury, we felt that he was the best candidate for the captaincy,” Pillai explained.
“And the squad we have selected represents the best players from the pool at our disposal. We have a balanced outfit with a number of all-rounders which is always good for the T20 format.”
Bahrain have a tough schedule in the nine-day tournament, which runs until September 24, having to play back-to-back matches twice with only a day’s rest in between but Pillai said his players were fully motivated and up for the challenge.
“Such a schedule is part and parcel of any sport so I’m fully confident that the boys will perform well collectively and hopeful that we’ll make a good fist of things in the championship,” he said.
“Also, we played some of these teams in the Premier Cup earlier this year so we have an idea of what to expect from our opponents.”
The 2023 Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Men’s Premier Cup was held in Kathmandu in April and Pillai, who had already been tapped by the Bahrain Cricket Federation (BCF) to succeed previous head coach Aashish Kapoor, accompanied the kingdom’s team in an interim capacity before formally assuming charge at the beginning of July. All the other five teams taking part in the Gulf Cricket Championship also participated in the Premier Cup.
“Since Bahrain has played more T20Is than One-Day Internationals (ODI), our batters are more accustomed to this format and so I expect them to do well,” Pillai added.
“Overall, this squad is a good bunch, they’re a very cohesive unit and quite keen to prove that they belong at this level. So I’m very hopeful about their prospects in this tournament.”
Following their first game against Qatar, Bahrain will take the field again the very next day against Kuwait. They will get a day’s rest before coming up against Saudi Arabia on September 18 and facing off against Oman a day later. Fortunately, they will have two days thereafter for rest and recovery before squaring off against the UAE in their last league match on September 22.
The top two teams in the table will qualify for the final.