A dramatic 2023 for Nepal cricket

Another fresh year is here. I am taking this opportunity to look back at the key events of Nepal cricket on the field and off, which took center stage in the last twelve months.

No end to CAN’s laid-back approach

The Cricket Association of Nepal(CAN) responsible for the all-round development of cricket in the country continues to be plagued by weak leadership, mismanagement, radical politicization, incompetency, internal wrangling, and negative publicity.

Furthermore, the cricket body lacks long-term vision, transparency, integrity, accountability, professionalism, meaningful long-term strategies, democratic and ethical management, and organizational success.

As a result, the face of Nepal cricket has remained more or less static in terms of development.

The apex cricketing body has failed to focus on developing grassroots cricket and infrastructure, coupled with investing in youth development programs.

Nepal cricket is sans a well-developed infrastructure, the cornerstone for the overall growth of the sport, which includes player development and grassroots participation.

I want to reiterate that CAN’s inefficiency and laid-back approach have been a major roadblock for cricket development to date.

Another term for CAN President Chand

There is no denying the fact that CAN President Chatur Bahadur Chand’s second term was a huge disappointment and marked by lofty promises, but limited results.

He proved a weak leader and his administration was saturated with controversies, scandals, and politics.

Nepal cricket paid a heavy price for the familiar incompetence of CAN. The irony is that Mr. Chand got re-elected unopposed for another four years. This is his third stint as president.

Unbelievable! He has admitted that mistakes were made and things could have been done better in his second term. His entire panel got elected with one exception.

Former skipper of the national team Paras Khadka who got elected for the post of secretary was the sole exception.

Whether or not his presence can make a positive impact on the cricket body, it’s too early to form an opinion, we will have to wait and see.

CAN must deliver on promises consistently and reliably to make a real impact on sustainable development.

Roller coaster year for the national team

The national team had a busy year with a jam-packed schedule. They competed in major tournaments ranging from the World Cup Qualifiers to the Asia Cup.

The talking point was the team’s spectacular performance in the ICC World Cup League 2 which earned them a place in the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

They rose from the dumps to script a phenomenal 11-game winning streak, capturing the hearts and minds of the cricketing world.

Before the astounding run of victories, Team Nepal languished second from the bottom, and, more importantly, the ODI status was at stake. They had to win a bare minimum of 9 matches to make it to Zimbabwe which they did.

After months of struggling, they got their acts together, defying the odds. They effectively combined a consistent concerted and individual effort and excelled in every aspect of the game.

And they managed to turn the tide in their favor.

2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier In Zimbabwe

Nepal was in a fairly formidable group comprising Zimbabwe, the West Indies, the Netherlands, and the United States.

They finished third in the group with 3 defeats and 1 solitary win against the United States.

In the 7th place play-off, Nepal lost to Ireland to finish the tournament in 8th position.

They had prevailed over the United Arab Emirates to set up a clash against the Irish outfit.

They were far from their best and lacked quality in their performance to make a bigger impact. Asia Cup exposure Team Nepal’s dream of playing in the 2023 Asia Cup in Pakistan and Sri Lanka was fulfilled at last.

They qualified for the tournament for the first time, following their victory over the United Arab Emirates in the final of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Kathmandu.

Nepal was pitted against cricket’s heavyweights India and Pakistan in Group A.

Although they faced heavy defeats in both matches, it was a valuable exposure and lifetime experience for the youthful outfit.

They received praise and accolades for their gritty performance from all quarters.

Record-breaking Asian Games

The national team wrapped up the busy year with the Asian Games in Hangzhou China.

They put together a groundbreaking performance against Mongolia in the T20 competition.

The batters went on a rampage and records tumbled like ninepins. Kushal Malla reached the century mark off just 34 balls. He became the fastest batter to make a hundred in a T20 International.

Likewise, Dipendra Singh Airee became the new record holder by scoring the fastest 50.

To add, Nepal became the first team to score 314 in a T20 tournament. They beat the opposition by a record margin of 273 runs.

But their record-breaking performance was short lived and hope of winning a medal was washed away by India.

Nepal qualified for the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup to be held in the United States and the West Indies. They finished behind Oman in the Asian Qualifiers held in Kathmandu.

Under-19 full of talent

The men’s Under-19 had a relatively good year in terms of performance. They showed plenty of promise, potential, and confidence in their game.

They dominated the Asian qualifiers and were rewarded with a qualifying ticket to the 2024 Under-19 World Cup.

The thrilling and improbable win they carved out over the United Arab Emirates was the talk of the town.

The team’s success in the ACC Under-19 Premier Cup earned them a berth in the Under-19 Asia Cup held in the United Arab Emirates.

Contrary to expectations, Team Nepal struggled and underperformed against powerhouses Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. They meekly surrendered without a semblance of resistance.

The setback has allowed them to assess and evaluate their weaknesses and shortcomings. They must commit to rectifying their weaknesses and improving their performance before the 2024 World Cup.

Coming of Coach Monty Desai

The appointment of Monty Desai from India as head coach proved to be a blessing to the men’s national team.

He took over the reins as head coach at a time when the team was in a mini-crisis. They mightily struggled and were going through a lean phase.

He faced the tough work of turning around the team through challenges. He adopted a bold approach and was able to motivate, build a winning mindset, and instill and inspire confidence in his players.

His appointment led to a change in fortunes for Nepal. He was able to bring the team’s losing streak to an end. Rest is history.

Women’s cricket in the limelight

Considering the sorry state of Women’s Cricket in Nepal, I give full marks to our cricketers for playing the game with passion, dedication, and a mission all along.

They did fail to qualify for the Twenty20 World Cup after going down to Thailand in the qualifiers, but it would be unfair to write them off.

Certainly, they have made strides and have the potential to strike it rich. As things stand, women’s cricket is in dire need of proper attention.

CAN must make adequate investments in developing women’s cricket in the country.

Sandeep Lamichhane under the spotlight

Former captain of the national team spin maestro Sandeep Lamichhane has been under the spotlight for the wrong reason for most of the year.

The most successful Nepali cricketer ever to make an impression internationally was in the law’s crosshairs as he anxiously awaited the court’s verdict on the alleged rape charges against him.

Not only has his public image tainted but his career is in peril. He has no one to blame but himself. In other words, he has fallen into the pit of his own making.

The unfortunate circumstance happened at a time when the spinner was at the peak of his career, making waves nationally and internationally.

As I write the verdict has come down. The Kathmandu District Court has convicted Lamichhane of rape. His jail term will be determined in the next hearing. Indeed, it is a sad day and a big loss for Nepal cricket

Gyanendra Malla bids adieu

Former skipper of the national team Gyanendra Malla hung up his boots, thus putting an end to his 17-year career.

The tremendously gifted right-handed batter played his final match against Ireland in the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

He featured in 37 ODIs and 45 T20Is scoring 876 and 883 runs respectively.

Scandalous and controversial laced T20 League

Nepal T20, the country’s first official franchise league organized by CAN caused a firestorm.

CAN’s partnership with Indian management company Seven3Sports drew widespread criticism. The cricket body was accused of blatantly violating the rule by selling the tournament’s commercial rights to the Indian company without bidding.

The organizer of the Everest Premier League filed a petition against CAN and later withdrew
the case, CAN made itself a laughing stock by announcing that it would not approve any other T20 franchise-based tournaments in the future.

The competition was rocked by spot-fixing. The Central Investigation Bureau launched an investigation into the matter and identified the involvement of 10 players (four Nepali and six foreign). This was an example of incompetence and mismanagement at its peak.

Time to deliver

Going forward, CAN must take its responsibilities seriously and work towards developing and enhancing facilities and infrastructure in the true sense.

First and foremost, they have to demonstrate honesty, professionalism, intent, dynamic leadership, good governance, and solid management.

They should not forget the fact that they are mandated to provide proper facilities and create a conducive environment for all stakeholders of cricket to grow and thrive.

Additionally, they must be focused on growing domestic infrastructure, and prioritizing ICC development programs.

Despite challenges, players continue to play the game with unparalleled passion, unwavering dedication, and hard work. They have given the country a chance to dream big.

It is hoped that CAN embarks on a meaningful journey towards transforming and taking Nepal cricket in the right direction.