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Oman have reached 'pinnacle' with ODI status, says coach Duleep Mendis

Oman's coach said his team "will certainly make an impact" after achieving ODI status for the first time

Four years ago in Malahide, Oman clinched T20I status with a five-wicket win over Namibia in a playoff match at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier. On Wednesday in Windhoek, it was practically déjà vu as a four-wicket win over Namibia secured Oman ODI status for the first time in the country's history, a result that head coach Duleep Mendis has hailed as a historic moment.
"I think it is something huge," Mendis told ESPNcricinfo after the win. "I think you can't ask anything more than this. With all the hard work the boys have gone through the last five-six years, they have climbed up the ladder and to get ODI status in Namibia I think it is the biggest achievement. It is the pinnacle that we have reached now.
"The build-up and the hard work that the boys did over the years, I think we should give the credit not only to the boys but to the cricket board as well. Oman Cricket board, which is headed by Mr Kanak Khimji, and the board of directors, we should thank all of them for all the backing and support that they have given us."
Going undefeated through the first four matches to secure ODI status with a match still in hand in round-robin play is especially sweet for Oman considering the heartbreak of 14 months ago. At the last WCL Division Two tournament held at the same venue, Oman recorded two wins and three defeats, to miss out on the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
Two of those losses went down to the wire, including a heartbreaker against Namibia, in which they had the hosts 65 for 7 chasing a target of 166 but could not close out the match. The other came against UAE, when Oman were 92 for 3 chasing a target of 160 before a run-out sparked a dramatic collapse of 7 for 21. Those two games in particular have served as motivation for the team on their return to Namibia.
"Last time, those two defeats to UAE and Namibia, those still linger in my mind and in most of the players' minds," Mendis said. "Those were very bad failures because we came so close but could not complete it. With those failures, I think the boys have learned a lot. That's why they don't want to give in."
Following their historic T20I win in Malahide, Oman made an even bigger splash in March 2016 in Dharamsala when they stunned Ireland on the opening day of play. Yet, in 50-over cricket, they were mired in Division Five of the World Cricket League. It took three consecutive promotions in Jersey in May 2016, in Los Angeles in November 2016, and in Uganda in May 2017 to get them within touching distance of ODI status.
After last year's stumble in Windhoek, they rebounded on home soil to go undefeated in November at WCL Division Three and have continued their unbeaten WCL run through to Namibia. Through it all, there have been a host of characters who have come and gone - the likes of former captains Sultan Ahmed and Ajay Lalcheta, and perhaps most notably the slingy quick Munis Ansari.
Oman Cricket director Pankaj Khimji said that establishing a family-oriented squad culture has maintained stability in performance in spite of player turnover across the last three years.
"The most gratifying part of this 2016-2019 journey has been the journey itself," Khimji said. "It's step by step, that we kept on growing and building a team and the building of this family. There have been individuals who have moved on, the new individuals who have come on. We have come in with three new blooded players and they have made the difference in today's game, the No. 5, 6, and 7 [Suraj Kumar, Sandeep Goud and Khurram Nawaz].
"There's nothing more gratifying than when you see young blood coming in and making a mark and the old guys, the same person [Zeeshan Siddiqui] who hit the winning runs in Ireland against Namibia is now the analyst in the team. So it's nice that we're building a family of good individuals who are coming together and making a great, great impression in cricket."
Oman join their desert gulf neighbours UAE as well as Scotland, Nepal and USA in the upcoming Cricket World Cup League Two, due to start in July 2019. Two other teams are yet to be confirmed in the competition, with Namibia, Canada, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea all still in with a chance. Oman will play 36 ODIs in the new League Two through to 2021, and Mendis is eager for his team to have the opportunity, especially with the spectacular Oman Cricket Academy available as a host venue.
"It's fantastic and I can't express my feeling," Mendis said. "One thing I can tell you, in the ODIs in the next three years, we will certainly make an impact."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna