ICC CWCQ Preview: Nepal Looking For The Big Break

ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier NewZealand 2014

Nepali Cricket has witnessed immense success in last two years. Trophies after trophies and T20 World Cup berth as a cherry on top. People cheered Nepal for every win and celebrated Nepal’s progress at International Level.

Paras Khadka who is often at the receiving end of agony of the fans when Nepal loses knows that this frenzy support from fans and government is only till Nepal keeps on progressing. ICC CWC Qualifier will see Nepal pitched against the top associates from the world- win here will not come as easy as WCL Division 4 and 3. To keep on progressing competing against associate giants is the biggest challenge Nepal Cricket will face in the coming years-but massive perks are waiting if Pubudu’s Team comes out glorious.

Nepal takes on UAE for the first match of the qualifier tomorrow. The team had left for New Zealand with promises of one more World Cup Berth-meaning Nepal has to finish in the top two of this 10 team global qualifier.

It has been less than two months since Nepal qualified for 2014 Cricket World Cup. Nepal finished third there finishing behind only Ireland and Afghanistan and on top of every other team of this tournament. Also the top seeded team UAE has time and again expressed their fares about facing Nepal. So although 9th on the ICC’s seeding Nepal are not going to the tournament as minnows. In fact for some critics, Nepal are favorites for top 2 finish.

For cricket’s growth  in Nepal this tournament could be the biggest stepping stone “World Cup Berth would be ideal for cricket in Nepal. T20 World Cup Berth has given us 4 months window to attract government and private investors to the game. A place in 2015 World Cup will give us more than a year” Ashok Nath Pyakurel, general secretary of Cricket Association had told me about a month back. “Cricket could totally change if Nepal make it to 2015 World Cup” he added.

Dassanayake also expressed today that despite being on an alien condition, Nepali Team was hungry to perform well. With success after success at ACC and ICC events  World Cup Qualification would give a fairly tale like plot to Pubudu’s Nepal stay. It would be the “Big Break” that Paras had been promising to Nepali Cricket fans.

Tough Group
Nepal is drawn in the same pool as Nepal’s Asian rivals-Hong Kong and  UAE. Canada and Scotland complete Pool A. Canada and Scotland are the only team from Pool A with ODI status. Scotland and UAE  will be real challenge for Nepal in the tournament.

UAE is the top seeded team in the tournament. UAE’s coach Aqib Javed, former Pakistani Cricketer and member of 1992 World Cup winning squad told ICC few days back that Nepal was their biggest concern.

“Nepal has beaten us three times(four including the practice match of ICC T20 Qualifier) in the last two years. The fact that even Afghanistan, which has already qualified for the ICC CWC 2015, hasn’t beaten the UAE recently but Nepal has, puts things in perspective” Javed had expressed to ICC few days back. Nepal did not throw in any mind game card but these losses will be playing in UAE players minds when they face Nepal.

Nepal most recently defeated UAE in the third place play off of ICC T20 Qualifier. Losing to Nepal UAE finished fourth..

On the other hand third seeded Scotland had failed to qualify for the T20 World Cup. But Scotland’s captain and coach have expressed that they find the seaming Kiwi pitches just like those at home. Also return of Peter Mommsen has strengthened the Scottish squad.

Mind games– UAE’s coach Javed  expressed weeks prior to the tournament that they would use their fast bowlers to full use against Nepali batters. Nepali team has experienced lot of troubles dealing with fast bowler.

Scottish captain Kyle Coetzer on a different note had claimed that they had the best spin bowling attack among the associates. This statement must have raised some eyebrows in Nepalese contingent. With likes of Basanta Regmi and Shakti Gauchan who have constantly fooled batters from UAE, Afghanistan and Netherlands, Nepal have every right to claim of being the best!

Nepali Team Combination

Paras Khadka’s “One-Man-Army” like role has changed a lot in last few months. With players like Sarad Vesawkar and Binod Bhandari coming up the ranks Paras’ shoulders would be slightly relaxed. Dassanayaye had shown confidence over Binod Bhandari saying that he  would be most impressive player  this tournament just prior to Nepal team’s Sri Lanka departure. So far he hasn’t disappointed-he scored a half century(65) against Namibia and quick fire 48 against Kenya. Anil Mandal has looked pretty confident opening.  The entire team however will be troubled by the seaming tracks of New Zealand. In the end skills of Subash Khakurel and Gyanendra Malla may be vital in coping with the seaming turf’s magic.

Using Sagar Pun number 3 seems to be coach’s ploy. A genuine stroke maker, Sagar’s intent of always going for the bad balls will help Nepal’s batting brush off their tendency to underscore in pressure situations.

Nepal is in NZ with a young fast bowling unit. Sompal Kami has looked the most impressive in the practice matches and he will be supported by Avinash Karn and Jitendra Mukhiya. Although NZ has  seam friendly pitches, if one cannot control the ball the fast one will get hammered-just like in the match against Kenya. Once again the spin duo Basanta and Shakti will have a central role determining Nepal’s fate in the tournament. Also with Scotland’s claims they have one more reason to perform.

The tournament format is strange. Three teams from each group make it to the super six and the points from the matches against other teams which qualified from the same group carry to super six round.

Given Nepal qualify they will only get matches with teams from the other group. The points from group stage thus are vital and every match against the likely qualifiers (Scotland and UAE) will be of same value of super six.  With complicated tournament structure the match will get pretty serious and with clouds looming over New Zealand the D/L method will not make things any easier.