The men known as the Barramundis feature in their first ever ICC global tournament, and line up in an open Group B with Scotland, Bangladesh, and hosts Oman.
Even as five other teams punched their tickets for the T20 World Cup at the qualifying event in 2019, Papua New Guinea’s qualification tugged the heartstrings of even the steeliest cricket fans.
Having won five of their six group matches at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019, the Barramundis watched their fairytale fate unfold in front of their eyes, perched in the stands as their passage to the showpiece event was secured. With Netherlands unable to beat Scotland, Assad Vala’s men topped their group via net run rate to secure their first ever spot in an ICC global event.
The pictures of Vala and his teammates jumping in the stands were unforgettable. Two years on the team are on a quest to prove themselves at the next level. While soaking up their first major tournament, the skipper understands the significance of playing on the biggest stage.
“To be able to finally qualify for one and participate in one of the World Cups is a dream come true for me, and speaking on behalf of all my teammates, it will be an honour for us," he said.
“It’s the pinnacle of cricket, being able to play against the best in the world.”
The Barramundis will fancy their chances in Group B of the First Round, up against Oman, Scotland and Full Member team Bangladesh. They’ll have scores to settle though, with Scotland the only team to defeat Papua New Guinea in the group stage of the qualifier.
They will likely need a positive opening result against co-hosts Oman on October 17 to progress to the Super 12 stage. But for Vala, the yardstick for his team is Bangladesh, with their clash on 21 October circled on his calendar.
“The match the boys are looking forward to is Bangladesh.
“It will be really good for us to test ourselves against a top quality team and see where we are at against the best teams in the world.”
Papua New Guinea are a flexible side, priding themselves on their fielding and running between wickets, and comprising a number of all-rounders. Vala has an array of options and plans to keep his adversaries guessing, or to keep the foot down with individuals who find their rhythm early.
“There are no superstars in our 11or 15. We are a well-drilled team, well-disciplined. We just rely on playing our roles and executing our skills to the best of our abilities.”
The performances of bowling all-rounder Norman Vanua and fellow opener Tony Ura will be key for Vala’s team, though the exploits of leg-spinning all-rounder Charles Amini could well dictate Papua New Guinea’s campaign. Describing teammate Ura as “the most destructive batsman in Associate countries,” Amini wants his team to make the most of their World Cup opportunities.
“This is the most historic event that we’re ever going to be a part of," Amini, a classy left-hand batter and effective leggie, said.
“This is the best way to showcase our brand of cricket that we play. I’m aware that the Associate-level countries know what type of cricket that we play but to be on the world stage and for everyone else to see is a big stepping stone for what we have to showcase.”
The team’s camaraderie has been a key ingredient in their success. Not only has the 15-strong group remained largely unchanged over a number of years, but much of them grew up in the Hanuabada village on the outskirts of Port Moresby, an area renowned for its strong cricketing culture.
Amini himself has followed in the footsteps of his family. Brothers Chris and Colin, parents Charles Senior and Kune, as well as grandfather Bryan have all represented the country at senior level, though it’s ‘CJ’ who will go where no Amini has gone before - a major ICC global tournament.
“Being together every day and training together every day is a strength that we have and everything that we do, we do together, in good times and bad times.
“I believe that we are a very close unit and the bond we have together is not like any other.”
Amini’s role is akin to Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan. Spinning the ball away from the right-handers and breaking down bowling attacks through a mix of touch and power, the 29-year-old is desperate to test himself against the best.
“They have a lot of players that play around the world.”
“To come up against them would be one of the most memorable moments at the World Cup.”
Personalise your homepage with an ICC account
News, fixtures and updates tailored to your favourite team. Never miss a moment!