Kathmandu- All eyes will be fixed upon the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 when the tournament kicks off in the African Country, Namibia, from January 17. There is so much at stake for six countries including Nepal, host Namibia, Kenya, Netherlands, Canada, and Uganda as the competition opens door for ICC International Cup.
Again, a top finish in the Intercontinental Cup offers a fight for Test-Status against lowly ranked test-countries, possibly Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. So, this ICC WCL Div 2 will probably determine where the above six countries lie in the world of cricket in the next four years.
Division 2 might result in the downfall of top associate countries like Netherlands, Kenya, and Canada, who have been in the top flight cricket outside test arena for a long time or it might see the rise of countries like Nepal, and Namibia who have always been rated high by the critics but have failed to deliver at the top level.
This competition provides Nepal a chance either to change their cricketing fortune forever like Afghanistan or see Nepal cricket getting even worse as a failure in this competition will deprive them funding from the ICC and the exposure Nepal needs to grow their cricket.
Nepal- Nepal is the most inexperienced side going into the tournament among the six. Nepal’s only participation at the highest level cricket in 50-over cricket was the world cup qualifiers 2014, in New Zealand, where Nepal managed only one win in six matches they played. Nepal’s inexperience playing at seaming conditions against quality opponents and injury to two key players, Paras Khadka, and Subash Khakurel was the reason behind Nepal’s disappointing New Zealand outing.
This time though, Nepal are confident going into the tournament without injury to any players, and in the past one year, Nepal has played quality cricket against strong teams- including Nepal’s highlighting T20 world cup participation where the team impressed critics with impressive performances.
Nepal should also feel happy about the form of Skipper Paras Khadka, who was phenomenal during Nepal’s practice matches helping Nepal win two out of three matches with scores of 31, 79, and 123*. Often regarded as “one man army” Paras holds the capability to single handedly win matches for his team.
Nepal goes into the seaming friendly wickets in Windhoek with back up of two fine young pacer Sompal Kami and Karan KC. The former has developed himself into a class pacer in short period of time, and his 8 wickets in his first tournament in New Zealand, 18 wickets in his first two first class matches cannot be neglected- while the latter has showed signs of improvement with 8 wickets in three practice matches in South Africa. Nepal also has got left- arm pacer Amrit Bhattarai, and if he gets over his injury in time, Nepal will certainly possess some threat in pace department.
Nepal has got an ever-green pair of spin bowlers; Basanta Regmi and Shakti Gauchan, both of whom have never disappointed Nepal in any conditions. So, a lot will depend on this pair if the plan with fast bowlers goes wrong. Sagar Pun, a promising all-rounder can add variety in Nepal’s bowling with his off-spin. He can be a handy opener in case the opening pair fails constantly or can be used as a destructive batsman down the order as well.
Nepal’s only concern, however, will be the opening combination. Naresh Budhayer is a very good young talent, but, his failure constantly at the top has lead has led to speculations over his position. If again, he doesn’t perform in the first two matches, Nepal will definitely think about his place and give Sagar Pun a chance. Nepal has the best middle-order batting among the six nations.
Nepal has the certainly got the best middle-order batting. The middle order is capable of holding any situation with the likes of experienced trio Gyanendra Malla, Paras Khadka, and Sharad Veswakar in it.
Nepal’s competitor in the tournament would be Netherlands and Namibia. Namibia, being the host has got the home advantage plus their regular high level cricket throughout the year will do them some favor. Netherlands, on the other hand, has been in the top flight cricket over the years, beating test countries time and again. They do have the players who can turn the tables any time.
With Kenya, and Canada losing their spot in recent times, and their preparations going weird (Kenya losing to Pakistan A 5-0, and Canada losing to Zimbabwe A 3-1)- and Uganda possessing a fragile batting line-up, I firmly believe that Nepal are among the title contenders along with Netherlands and Namibia.