With a creditable showing at the World T20 and Nepal’s recent T20 International status, the public’s interest is only on the rise, making this a good time to take the game to Nepal in a bigger way. The Mulpani Cricket Ground (MCG) in Kathmandu district – 10 km and about half an hour east from the center of Kathamdu with a new highway linking them in operation, was expected to be the largest ground in Nepal in terms of capacity with the stands and grass banks projected to accommodate about 30,000 fans which is 1.5 times greater than the capacity of ‘Tribhuwan University Ground’ and six times that of ‘Pulchowk Engineering Ground’ and ‘Pokhara Ground’
Although the ‘Gentleman’s game’ landed the land of brave gorkhas almost 8 decades ago, it was only in 1988 International Cricket Council (ICC) affiliated Nepal. But, Nepal Cricket wasn’t that fortunate early on, neither ICC nor Cricket Association Of Nepal (CAN) made any significant effort to bring international level game to the land of Himalayas. Nepal had to wait almost eight years to participate in an international level tournament – ‘ACC Trophy’ in 1996 and that too in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The first steps to take international cricket to Nepal were seen with the ‘Tempo Legends World Cup’ in 1999 – the tri-series involving Veteran stars representing India, Pakistan and a ‘Rest of the World’ team and was played at the Tribhuvan University Ground. The tournament was jointly organised by the CAN and Zee Sports but there was no capitalisation on the momentum to put cricket in Kathmandu on the world map.
The Mulpani ground was previously a livestock-grazing site and used by the people to learn driving. In 2007, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) decided to construct an international-quality stadium on this plot. But plans of making Mulpani a cricketing dates back lot back.
It was expected that the ground (partly funded by ACC) would be ready for cricket in 3 years but nearly 8 years later apart from the pavilion and fencing, there is no other concrete fixtures at the ground. While some work has been done in outfields and the pitch but the ground is in no state to host any sort of cricket now.
Though started a decade ago with an ambition to complete by November of 2011, only the outlook of the ground has been completed which is less than 50 percent of the total construction. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a corruption case against 18 officials of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), including its chairman Tanka Angbuhang. The CIAA’s investigation over the CAN unveiled that Rs 14.31 million had been embezzled allocated by national and international organisations.
The government of Nepal has allocated Rs. 30 million in this year’s budget for the completion of the construction of Mulpani cricket ground which is almost 2% of the total budget granted to sports. Chudamani Paudel – spokesperson and joint secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, is optimistic that the construction would gain momentum following allocation of budget by the government.
Though players have taken this step positively some of them are still not fully unsatisfied, “We currently need at least four or five grounds so that players get the opportunity to practice and play enough matches,” expresses Sharad Vesawakar. It has been 27 years since Nepal was affiliated by ICC and 19 years since Nepal played it’s first ever international match but yet the nation lacks well equipped ground of international quality. With Nepal getting an international T20 status and trying hard to get an ODI as well as Test status, need of grounds with reasonable facilities for the players is basic need.
Tarani Bikram Saha who took charge of CAN as acting president some four months back after resignation from Tanka Angbuhang, the ground would be complete within four months. The four month period with the situation showing o improvement. After the currrent CAN members was ousted Binay Pandey taking charge of the CAN promised that the ground would be complete by 2015.
Considerable paperwork has been done about Mulpani Cricket Ground after Bhawana Ghimire was appointed CEO of CAN about a month back. The pace of the work at Mulpani and her will to work in testing conditions has given new hopes to Mulpani Cricket Ground. In one of her interview Ghimire had pointed out that completion of Mulpani was one of her priorities.
‘It might take a year or so for Mulpani to be rasy to host any international matches. We are rebuliding and it’s important to make strong foundation first’ she said. ‘We are pretty sure the ground will get ready by end of Falgun’, said Ramesh Silwal, Secretry of newly formed CAN. “Couple of weeks earlier, Defense and Finance ministers visited Mulpani, also every political parties are showing support which is a good thing. Funds will be provided and Mulpani will be ready in Falgun at-least for the domestic games”,Silwal said optimisticly.
Cricket Officials of Nepal and the ICC believe that Mulpani along with some other grounds in Nepal have good chance of becoming the neutral venue after Sharjah, Toronto and Singapore as cricket is possible almost nine months even when the other nations from subcontinent are suffering from the sub continental summer. “There is no reason why Nepal cannot become a popular neutral venue because we have good weather for almost nine months in a year and the locals love the sport” opines Paras Khadka, skipper of National squad.
Arch-Rivals India and Pakistan will be playing six test series in between 2015 and 2023, Nepal being neighbor and having good relation with both the nations has more than half a chance bringing test cricket to the nation for the very first time.
(Besides the construction of Mulpani cricket stadium, the government also announced plans to construct at least one cricket ground in each of the 240 election constituencies within three years. The government has stated that cricket grounds would be constructed in 53 constituencies within the upcoming fiscal year. Of the total budget of Rs 1.48 billion for sports, Rs 60.05 million has been earmarked for capital expenditure and Rs 1.47 billion for current expenditure. The total budget is Rs 220 million more than that of the last fiscal year.)