International, National

ACC Trophy Elite 2012, a mission for Nepali cricket: Preview

Pratap Dulal/October 1, Kathmandu – Nepali Cricket Team eying the shinning crown of ACC Trophy Elite 2012 after proving paramount ability at the ICC World Cricket League Division IV at Malaysia a month back. Crowning champion will maintain the winning habit, which is eventually imperative. Nepal is aiming to gain at least ODI status by 2015. If Nepal wishes this, they have to achieve every glory in this journey. This challenge is extensive contest as this is the fight between powerhouses of Non-test playing Asian nation.

Nepal is scheduled along with UAE, Hong Kong, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in-group B. Similarly, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Oman, Bhutan and Maldives will compete in Group A for top two spot, which will secure semi-final place of 10 days tournament that begins from October 3.

Nepali Cricket team is familiar with all these team in Group B as they have played against each other in various tournaments. In 50 overs cricket, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are mediocre team thus it will not be hard to beat them but the main threat remains against Hong Kong and UAE. Perhaps main issue stay behind is ‘How will Nepal play in the opening match against host nation UAE?’ Nepal is yet to defeat UAE in 50 overs cricket. It is fair to say, if Nepal manages to win against UAE in the opener, it could seal the place in semi-final, which will probably ease their passage to final they had already reached on preceding edition and 2002.

Even without the title winning history in ACC Trophy, Nepal has a statistics to set right, though Nepal has once beaten Afghan in same tournament in 2004 and have upper hand against Hong Kong in 50 overs cricket. Nepal defeated UAE in three-day match once before hence, Nepal has a good chance to defeat UAE. Afghanistan and UAE is major problem for Nepal as these teams regularly playing high exposure tournaments World Cricket League, Intercontinental Cup and World Cup qualifiers. Despite all this, Nepal have the potential to turn the tables from any opposition, who ever comes on the way to achieve victory with current form in all three departments; bowling, fielding and batting.

In the history of ACC Trophy, there have been four different winners. In 1996 and 1998 Bangladesh won it. After Bangladesh got the Test status, UAE then held the vacant post from 2000 to 2006, claimed the title and in 2008 it went to Hong Kong’s hand. Likewise, Afghanistan claimed the trophy in 2010 defeating Nepal in the final.

However, reaching final is not small achievement at the tournament participated by highly rated teams like Hong Kong, UAE, Oman and Afghanistan. All these teams were well ahead of Nepal in ICC’s division. Afghanistan and UAE gaining experience in Division 1 plays regular international cricket matches and Hong Kong battling at Division 2. Likewise, Oman relegated from Division 2 and now in at Division 3.

Regarding the weather, it will not be so easy to battle in this event, as high temperature at UAE can reach 38 to 40 degree (Celsius) in October. Nepali players do not have the habit of playing in the hot conditions. However, slow and low track will surely be in favor of Nepali team as they heavily rely on their spinners. Nepali batsmen Sharad Vesawkar, Anil Mandal, Subash Khakurel and Gyanendra Malla will enjoy the long boundary as these batsmen used to play ground shots. However, Pradeep Airee and Paras Khadka must calculate the distance between pitch and boundary rope before hitting shots in the air. It will be hard to clear the fence through the air against top quality bowlers of UAE, Hong Kong, Oman and Afghanistan.

Nepali Bowlers will be tested in this contest as they are not premier fast & and rely on their line and length only. But spin does remain a threat for any opponents. Basanta and Shakti announced their selves as “dangerous” as the duo already impressed with their variation and had some of the opposition batsmen to fear in recently concluded tournaments. Sanjam Regmi’s off break can create doubt on batsman’s mind as well. Likewise, Amrit Bhattarai and Binod Das’s initial spells will be crucial, it will decide the bowling effort of the team as every team expect early break through from opening bowlers. Paras Khadka can backup pacers with his clever bowling.

Moreover, it is big time for Sharad Vesawkar and Prithu Baskota to show their worth in the playing XI. They find their selves under pressure not just for lack of runs, but also shrinking confidence. It is hard to regain position in team all the time despite lack of contribution from bat as Naresh Budhayer, Sagar Pun and Rajesh Pulami is ready to show up from national team. Absence of Chandra Saud could heart Nepal as he has good reminiscence of ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in UAE. He suffered from shoulder injury. Binod Bhandari is taking his place and Bhuwan Karki came in for Rahul BK, who is having discomfort due to back pain.

Nepal will start the tournament playing against UAE on October 3. Then after, Nepal faces Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong on October 6, 7 and 9 respectively. Semi-finals matches will be played on October 10 and winner will be decided on October 12.

Form guide
(completed matches, most recent first)
Nepal: W W W W W

Tournament Form guide
(completed matches, most recent first)
Nepal: L W W W W

Nepal Squad: Paras Khadka (captain), Gyanendra Malla (vice-captain), Pradeep Airee, Subash Khakurel, Anil Mandal, Prithu Baskota, Sharad Vesawkar, Basant Regmi, Sanjam Regmi, Shakti Gauchan, Binod Das, Amrit Bhattarai, Binod Bhandari, Bhuwan Karki.

Coach: Pubudu Dassanayake