Cricinfo/Mohammad Isam – Nepal captain Paras Khadka strode into the press conference room at a Dhaka hotel impressively. He stressed how Nepal have been working for more than a decade to get to this level, and not just to play in this edition of the World T20. They are among six teams to have made it to the first round of the World T20 from the Qualifier tournament held in the UAE last November.
“I think we are here to present Nepal cricket in front of the whole world,” Khadka said. “It is a great opportunity for us. It is not like we have only qualified for this tournament and worked for three months. We have been playing for 10-12 years with hard work and playing continuous cricket. We are here to compete and play to the best of our ability. If we play to our potential, things should be good for us.”
Khadka said that Nepal’s participation in the tournament will boost cricket in the country, as the government has already taken interest. “I think we have been playing cricket since 1996. We have been part of the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) since then. CAN (Cricket Association of Nepal) is one of the oldest sporting associations back home. We are getting there.
“Football and cricket are the two most popular sports. Everybody follows us. Kids love the game. The game is really growing big time. It is very exciting. We have an amazing fan following back home. The number of cricket fans that we have matches any Test-playing country.
“For most people, Nepal came as a huge surprise to be playing at this level. This will be a breakthrough for the country itself. Once we qualified for the World Cup, the government is very keen to find out how to develop cricket further. I hope we can move forward from here.”
Nepal shot to fame in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka where they became Plate champions, and Khadka said the senior team is now following up on the younger batch’s impressive showing in that tournament over the years.
“There was always the criticism that we only do well at the U-19 level. But the national team is doing well in the last two years. You need the junior structure as well. What we need is a basic structure back home.”
After Khadka, Rahul Vishwakarma said how he, like all his team-mates, had aspired to reach this stage since childhood. He met one of his heroes, Shakib Al Hasan, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Like Shakib, he is a left-arm spinner and left-hand batsman and doesn’t lack the confidence too.
“It feels great to be playing at this level, but we belong to this level,” Vishwakarma said. “Hopefully we will do well in this tournament.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here