Former skipper Gyanendra Malla bids adieu to international cricket

Former skipper of the men’s national cricket team of Nepal Gyanendra Malla has hung up his hat from all formats of international cricket.

The thirty-two year old announced his retirement from professional cricket, marking the end of a remarkable career close to two decades at a press conference held in Kathmandu recently.

His farewell outing was against Ireland in the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.

His sacrifice and contribution to Nepal cricket has been immense and will never be forgotten.

Malla is the third prominent player of his generation to bid adieu to international cricket, joining the list which includes former captain Paras Khadka and Shakti Gauchan.

The national team then made up of highly talented players and spearheaded by Khadka, one of the biggest names in modern day Nepal cricket is known as ‘The Golden Generation’ based on achievements and tangible successes.

Under Khadka, Malla was vice- captain of the team that achieved several milestones in the history of Nepal cricket.

In 2014 history was made when Nepal played its maiden Twenty20 World Cup. Likewise, the national team secured the One Day Status in 2018.

Malla played in two Under-19 World Cups in 2006 and 2008. Nepal’s performance in 2006 World Cup was notable as they took the cricketing world by surprise, upsetting South Africa and New Zealand to win the Plate final.

In the role of a top- order batter Malla put in a stellar performance and contributed significantly, scoring 245 runs in 6 innings.

In 2019 he took over the captaincy of the national team, following Paras Khadka’s retirement.

In the same year he led the team in the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup and the South Asian Games.

In addition, from 2008 to 2015 he played in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 to 2, totaling 1262 runs, which included 1 century and 7 half-centuries. His maiden century came against Singapore in Division 3 in 2014.

On the domestic front, he played for different teams in the likes of Armed Police Force, Lalitpur Patriots, Bagmati Province and Colors X Factors. Also in 2013 he represented the Ontario Cricket Club in Canada.

In 2021 he and a section of the players were up in arms over the Cricket Association of Nepal’s (CAN) plan to implement the controversial players grading and contract issues.

Both Malla and Dipendra Singh Airee paid the price of dissent as they were stripped of captaincy and vice-captaincy respectively by CAN on disciplinary grounds.

CAN denied them a central contract for six months as well.The cricket body’s decision backfired as they faced criticism and protest from national players.

As a result, CAN lifted the ban and reinstated both players in the national team. Malla agreed to join the team under Sandeep Lamichhane’s captaincy.

The top order right-handed batter Malla, well known for his batting prowess, played many memorable knocks in his career.

He earned the title of reliable batter for his dogged,composed and intelligent batting style. He was one of the key contributors to the team’s historic successes.

I vividly remember his fastest half- century which he scored against Saudi Arabia off just 17 balls in the 2012 ACC Trophy Elite.

He is the only Nepali player to hit six 4s in an over.

In a career spanning 18 years he played 37 One Day Internationals(ODI) and 45 Twenty20s. With 1759 runs across all formats of the game, he is Nepal’s third highest run getter to date.

Although he failed to score a century in ODI, he accumulated 876 runs, including 7 half centuries. His highest score was 72 against Namibia in 2022.

Likewise, in the Twenty20 he scored 883 runs with the help of 2 half centuries and 1 century (against Bhutan in 2019).

Apart from him, there are only three other centurions for Nepal in this format of the game. Amongst the four his 107 remains the second highest score by a Nepali batter so far.

And not so much to my surprise,he had a few shortcomings,especially consistency. In the final stretch of his career he struggled with the bat.

That said, his overall performance outweighs any perceived weaknesses. More importantly, he will always be remembered as a high caliber batter.

Malla’s emergence in Nepal cricket came at a time when the national team was making frantic efforts to make forays into international cricket.

The national selectors were on the lookout for emerging talents who could make all the difference for the team. It did not take long for the selectors to spot Malla’s potential as a batter.They closely kept track of his batting performances in domestic and international tournaments.

Finally they were convinced that he deserved a place in the senior national team.They saw in him as a technically sound, composed and confident batter full of positivity who could be a valuable asset for the team.

Malla born in Bhimsensthan, Kathmandu developed a keen interest in cricket from a tender age. He intensely followed the sport and watched every live telecast of international matches on television.

Besides, he always went to see local tournaments.In no time his interest turned into passion.He started playing cricket in school, and the more he played the more he liked the sport. He remained resolute in pursuit of his goal.

It was his deep passion and love for the sport that eventually propelled him to dream of becoming a professional cricketer and representing the country.

While playing in school tournaments, his talent caught the attention of selectors, ultimately leading to his selection in 2005.

He went on to play for different age group national teams Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19.

His outstanding performance in the Under-19 World Cup in 2006 was a turning point in his career, which eventually earned him a place on the senior national team.

Malla made his debut for the national team against Namibia in the Intercontinental Cup in 2006. Eight years later he made ICC Twenty20 World Cup debut against Hong Kong.

Furthermore,he was in the team that played in the historic first ever 50-over One Day International against the Netherlands in 2018.

He made the historic moment unforgettable by becoming the first Nepali cricketer to score a half-century.

Malla, a true gentleman, motivator and brilliant performer will be sorely missed on the field. He may have retired but has made it very clear that his unwavering support for Nepal cricket will continue unabated.