(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Following Oman's flop show in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group III event in Dubai this month, non-playing captain Siddiq al Hashmi has admitted that the national side will have to continue relying on the Nabhani brothers, Khalid and Mohammed, for the next five years due to a dearth of young talent.
Despite having the experienced Nabhanis on board, Oman got relegated to Group IV and hit a new low earlier this month.
Amid harsh criticism from all quarters, Hashmi said that the Dubai trip was a disappointment, but added that it was the best that his players could do, given the limitations they faced in the build-up to the tournament.
Hashmi told Muscat Daily, ''When you compare our preparations with that of the other teams, we were nowhere. Teams like Iran, Malaysia and UAE have had overseas camps for months. Hong Kong's squad comprised professionals from the circuit.
''Compare that with us - our planned two-week camp to India had to be cancelled as the players either didn't get a work release' or couldn't come due to academic pursuits. To make things worse, we got a bad draw. We had Hong Kong, Iran and Malaysia in our group.''
The Oman team captain added, ''It's not that our players were whitewashed. We lost to teams with 1-2 scorelines, except for the 0-3 loss to UAE, which was in the relegation playoffs.
''The Nabhani brothers gave their best. In the crucial match against Malaysia, when the teams were tied at 1-1, the deciding doubles contest went into the third set. A power outage during the match held up play for 40 minutes. It upset our rhythm and we lost 1-2. That proved decisive.''
Hashmi, who has led Oman in the Davis Cup for the past eight years, said, ''These are not excuses but just facts. The team had the potential to remain in Group III, but with hardly any [scope for] good preparations, we couldn't have done any better.''
He doesn't think blooding youngsters into the team, at this stage, is the right idea.
Currently, the Oman team features the experienced Nabhani brothers, Mudrik al Rawahi and Saleh al Zadjali.
''We had selection trials. Rawahi, who is 34, easily beat the top youngsters, but he was later outplayed in Dubai. So, when there are suggestions that youngsters will gain experience and exposure if they are fielded in the Davis Cup, I think they will be demoralised if they lose 0-6, 0-6,'' Hashmi said. ''The fact is that Oman still doesn't have a large pool of young players. Those currently available cannot compete against the seniors.
''Take for instance the Oman Open, our biggest domestic tournament. Last year, in Khalid's absence, we had Mohammed and Saleh fighting for the title. No young player could compete against them.''
Hashmi, also a former national coach, said, ''It would need another five to six years to expect a fresh bunch of youngsters to take over from the current crop. Till then, the Nabhanis are our best bet [for tournaments], along with Mudrik and Saleh.''
Upset with Saleh getting recalled from Dubai midway into the tournament to rejoin work, Hashmi said the Ministry of Sports Affairs and other relevant ministries should look into the issue of players' release for national duty. ''We were left with just three players for the last three days.''
Hashmi said the Oman Tennis Association (OTA) is currently taking the right path in popularising the game, which will help it in putting together a large pool of players. ''There are a couple of youngsters whose parents are willing to make sport the priority for their kids. We hope to nurture such players. Only a combined effort from the players, their parents, the OTA and the government will pave the way for developing top level players.''
Hashmi, who is also the OTA's treasurer, is confident that if the current national team gets a 45-day camp ahead of its next Davis Cup engagement, it can return to Group III.
''We need to work out a plan where we can have the players together for at least a month and a half. Khalid, who is pursuing a doctorate in Glasgow, Scotland, has to manage his time. Mohammed and Saleh need a work release', while Mudrik has to find time out of his business. I am sure we can be back,'' he said.
Oman made its Davis Cup debut in 1994, reaching its peak in 2008 and 2009 when it featured in Group II. It was in Group III for four years in a row before going down