The team captained by Azeem Ul Haq, is managed by Syed Rizwan Shah and coached by Rexie Arunvasagam left Bahrain on Sunday evening to prepare for the tournament.
Before their departure, DT News caught up with the squad with a final preparation dinner at Al Wasmiya Restaurant in Gudaibiya and spoke to a number of key individuals, including the team manager, captain and coach.
Bahrain will join Bhutan, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and hosts Thailand in a single round-robin competition with all matches played in Thailand’s second city of Chiang Mai in the 50-overs format..
Bahrain received a bye in the first round of matches, but open its campaign on 23 April against hosts.
Team manager Syed Rizwan Khan said, “I hope we will finish in the top two and hopefully get promotion. Selecting a squad saw 140 players turn up for open trials, before we whittled down to 35 and a final squad of 14 with four reserves on stand-by here.”
Describing training over the past couple of months, Khan said, “It was very problematic because of the poor weather experienced in Bahrain recently and we are grateful that Alba Club and Riffa Club made facilities available to us for the training.”
Khan added that going to Sri Lanka first is a chance to acclimatise and get used to turf wickets, as Bahrain lacks them.
Looking ahead Khan said, “Our main rivals I see are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and interestingly the players selected are a 9/9 split from both the Cricket Bahrain Association and Bahrain Cricket League. This is the first time we have done this and players selected are based on ability not reputation. For the record, nine players have also been selected for the first time which opens and encourages players with ability to step up a further level.”
Head coach Arunvasagam since 2003 said, “Training went well over the four weeks or so and said the 18-man squad comprises nine Pakistanis, three Bahrainis and two Sri Lankans. We trained four times a week in the evening from 8pm to 11pm and every Friday and Saturday had a 50-over training match. After the disruptive weather here, Sri Lanka will be good for the team and getting used to turf wickets and a similar climate to Thailand.” Arunvasagam acknowledged that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are likely to be Bahrain’s toughest rivals.
Team captain Ul Haq added, “Five selectors sat together and after the open trials decided the final 35 before cutting it down to 18. We are confident of doing well and have promoted five players up from the
Under-19 team who will feel have the talent and ability to succeed. Playing a series of matches in Sri Lanka before Thailand is the best preparation as we need to get used to turf wickets and a similar climate. I am confident our team will do well and overcome what is said that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the strongest sides. We are missing a few experienced players and hope the replacements can step-up to the next level.”
Bahrain squad: (Captain) Azeem Ul Haq, Tahir Dar, Babar Ali, Junaid Niazi, Gamini Perrera, Imran Butt, Janaka Chathuranga, Mohammed Ismail, Amir Gondal, Mohammed Sameer Fayaz, Mohammed Iqbal, Awad Khan, Bilal Mansoor, Jabbar Amjad. (Head Coach): Rexie Arunvasagam, (Manager): Syed Rizwan Shah.
Bahrain Schedule: 23 April: Thailand. 25: Saudi Arabia. 26: Qatar. 28: Kuwait. 29: China. 1 May: Bhutan.