As ICC representatives visit Nepal to discuss the country’s suspension, one man has fronted up to plead their cricket’s innocence, and he is willing to starve for the cause.
A valued figure in Nepali cricket, Anil Adhikari has threatened a hunger strike if demands aren’t met. Sending an eight-point ultimatum to members of the ICC and the Nepali government, the 33-year-old has made it simple: front up, or you’ve got a story on your hands.
“The national human rights commission and the office of the prime minister have been informed about these (hunger strike) programs,” Adhikari explains.
“We are not against the ICC but we have already told them justice delayed is justice denied. Due to this suspension, our grassroots-level cricket is being destroyed day by day.”
Adhikari’s protest is a gradual “pressure program”, with his final protest being the hunger strike if changes aren’t made. A week after his initial threats, he along with several supporters have raised black flags around the Tribhuvan University ground in Kathmandu. After two weeks with the flags up, his group will speak to the national sports ministry. If no amendments are made by then, he and several others will begin their abstinence from eating. This action hasn’t escaped the national team’s eye either, with the Nepali Players’ Association also notified.
A social worker by trade, Adhikari immerses himself in Nepali cricket. A former captain of his university team in national competition, he has also worked as a commentator of national team games. Though, it is his involvement in college cricket and developing players across the country that has led him to take action. A lack of infrastructure has frustrated Adhikari, who hastily helps in organising tournaments to help players compete and improve. National team captain Paras Khadka echoes this sentiment, describing the domestic competition as a collection of “random tournaments” to ESPNCricinfo’s Alan Gardner.
“Cricket in recent years has become the symbol of national unity, hope, and glamour for Nepali youths,” Adhikari continues.
“The government is just becoming a tool of different vested political interests. Political cadres of different parties.
Adhikari’s demands for the ICC and the government are split equally. In points one and two, he asks the ICC for an immediate lift in the suspension and a normalization committee to overlook proceedings. Point three is a request for the ICC to help create a recognized domestic competition, with point four a demand to create a new independent Nepali cricket board. On the government side of the letter, Adhikari has stressed the need for an agency of coaches, construction of regional stadiums, and the need for clearer records for domestic players. On top of this, Adhikari has also brought up the need of honouring former representative players for “further guidance of Nepali cricket.”
Several ICC figures have been present in discussions, including former CEO of the Cricket Association of Nepal, Bhawana Ghimire. Ghimire, who left her post in June, now works under ICC Management. ICC CEO David Richardson was scheduled to appear, though he cancelled his plans due to government change according to Adhikari, who hasn’t held back with criticism of their handling of the situation.
“The ICC are also playing the comedy of errors with poor cricket officials, some of who can’t speak English or articulate. They advised (to) form an ad hoc committee to the Chief of Sports Council, Keshav Bista. He is a political appointment and an executive officer of the government who can’t speak English and needs a translator to have talks with ICC officials.”
In June, Adhikari cited the chances of a ban being lifted being “unlikely”, saying that the government and cricket association were laying blame on each other. The folder of sport in Nepal receives the smallest budget in government paperwork, meaning the responsibility of the sport’s development is in permanent limbo. One month on, little has changed. Adhikari insists that even international matches don’t escape their logistical problems.
“We need the Nepal government funds for the construction of infrastructure too. The last time the Nepal government spent one million dollars was for the renovations to meet international standards in the Trivhuwan university ground to conduct the Nepal/Namibia match. The ICC took all the money of ticket sales.”
Adhikari, while penning these demands in solitude, is not alone. Hundreds of people have advocated his gesture, taking to social media to back him. Though, it isn’t the public that Adhikari must win over. Instead, it’s the compassionate side of officials that he needs to reach, and reach quickly. As Nepal’s ban continues to quash any progress, a resolution looks less likely by the day. It may even be darker in the near future, with the ban of Nepal’s international involvement possibly on the horizon.
While comparisons have been drawn to Zimbabwe and the West Indies governing body conflict, Nepal’s problems are more alarming given their position in world cricket’s hierarchy. Instead, one could match Nepal’s situation to Kenya’s ten years ago. As the national team continues to taste success, the levels below are unable to move up, with under-par administration preventing forward movement. As corruption crippled the Kenyan Cricket Association, it folded and made way for Cricket Kenya. While Nepal could go down the same path, the country has two things on its side that Kenya didn’t have: a high population density in urban areas, and the potential for strong corporate support. The creation of a strong domestic system is therefore viable.
The need for this domestic overhaul is clear to see, with a lack structure the absence of a national league crippling player development and ultimately the national team’s chances against the world. Their under 19 side made headlines when they reached World Cup quarter-final, beating New Zealand, though the players who enjoyed that triumph could wait years before representing their country again. Raju Rijal and Sandeep Lamichanne, who featured at Lord’s, are the only exceptions by virtue of their fast-tracked selection in the senior team.
“A Strong premier league like a NPL (Nepali Premier League) will bring more players sponsors and commercial attraction to Nepali cricket,” Adhikari claims.
“If (no official domestic cricket) continues we will have generation gap in players.”
It’s hard to question the passion of Adhikari, who is set to push his body for the sake of sweeping change.
“When you know they are killing a golden egg-laying hen due to their ego, incompetence and anarchism, it’s the only way to give pressure to them. They are killing dreams and hopes of millions of youths. I will try to be hungry as long as I can.”
Written by Daniel Beswick (@dbeswick13).