In hindsight, taking into consideration the overall performance and results in international competitions,2022 was a disappointing and average year for Nepal cricket.
It was a hectic and engaging twelve months schedule for the national teams. Cricketers were kept on their toes throughout playing in domestic and international tournaments.
By far the year’s biggest newsmaker was former skipper of the national team Sandeep Lamichhane who was charged with rape.
The appointment and dismissal of former Indian international all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar as head coach of the national cricket team made the news.
The controversial and highly politicized Cricket Association of Nepal(CAN) spearheaded by Chatur Bahadur Chand hogged headlines for various reasons, good and bad.
Lamichhane-A colossal loss to Nepal cricket
Highly talented International leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane’s rapid fall from grace was the biggest sporting headline of the year.
The youngster with a long flourishing career ahead of him orchestrated his own downfall in the most disgusting manner.
He was charged with the rape of a minor girl and remanded in custody. Later the court sent him to judicial custody until the final verdict on a rape charge.
The spinner who had a meteoric rise to stardom nationally and internationally was the heartbeat of the team.
At a young age, he took over the captaincy of the national team and became the first ever Nepali cricketer to play across the cricketing world for different teams with success.
The undoing of Lamichhane is very unfortunate and a big loss to Nepal cricket. In his absence, the bowling department is not quite the same, lacking solidity, firepower and dimension. His bowling is being missed like never before.
Head Coach Prabhakar resigns
Former Indian international all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar came in place of Sri Lankan Pubudu Dassanayake as head coach of the national team.
Only four months into his tenure, he was forced to step down, following complaints from players and management about his unprofessional coaching method and rigid style. They were critical of his unacceptable approach to team selection, coupled with volatile and hostile behaviour. Nepal played 7 ODI matches under him, winning just two.
Obviously, it was a case of incompetence and negligence on the part of CAN. It appears though they hastily appointed him as the head coach. They should have thoroughly vetted him and reviewed his credentials before offering him the job.
Head coach selection must be strictly done on merits and in the team’s best interest. Frequent change of guard does more harm than good to the team.
CAN vs EPL feud
In the early part of the year, CAN have to deal with a legal challenge, following a writ filed at the Supreme court by the organizers of the Everest Premier League(EPL) along with six franchise teams.
They demanded that CAN sanction the EPL, otherwise, they would boycott any competition organized by them.
Since CAN decided to organize its own Nepal T20 league, its decision not to sanction an established tournament of EPL stature with International Cricket Council recognition was downright ridiculous and stupid.
When the need of the hour is to encourage and support private sector participation and involvement in the development of the sport, as much as possible, CAN’s decision defies logic and is a barrier that discourages the private sector.
Let us not forget that the private sector is a key stakeholder in Nepali sports and its importance cannot be overstated.
Nepal’s poor run in ICC CWC League-2
There was no end to Nepal’s poor run in ICC CWC League-2. Currently, they are in sixth place with 18 points from 23 matches. Technically their hopes of making it to the World Cup final are over.
More concerning is that Nepal’s ODI status is at stake. Shout they fail to make inroads in the upcoming series, there is a possibility that the hard-earned ODI status will be squandered, which is unthinkable.
As part of the CWC League-2 fixtures, Nepal featured in 3 Tri-series in the United States, Scotland and Namibia against Oman, United States, Namibia and Scotland without much success.
The end result was a complete debacle for the team. Now they have a herculean task to defend the ODI status.
If Nepal shows consistency, can put its act together and perform to its potential, they stand a chance to taste success.
They proved themselves against Kenya by comprehensively winning the One Day and T20 series 3-0 and 3-2 respectively in Kenya.
A 2-1 ODI series win against the United Arab Emirates at home was another success story for Nepal.
The series featured hard-hitting batter Rohit Paudel who donned the captaincy hat for the first time and debutant duo Arjun Saud and Harishankar Sah, Nepal was victorious against the touring Zimbabwe ‘A’ in the unofficial ODI series 2-1 and drew the T20 series 1-1 in Kathmandu.
Women cricketers in action
Nepali women cricketers were in action as well. They participated in the ACC Women’s T20 championship in Malaysia.
Despite beating Bhutan, Bahrain and Kuwait, their progress to the final was cut short by bad weather in the semi-final against the United Arab Emirates(UAE).
They did well to restrict the opposition to 81 runs, however, their innings did not get a start because of rain.
The tie was eventually abandoned and the UAE advanced to the final as they had topped the group stage.
Highly talented medium pacer Ashmina Karmacharya with 8 wickets from 4 matches was the tournament’s highest wicket-taker.
Tribhuvan cricket ground was the venue for the 1st International Women’s T20 series, the first of its kind between Nepal and Uganda.
The touring side won the five-match series 3-2 much to the dismay of home fans. Nonetheless, the home team rallied to win the last two matches after losing the first three matches.
Likewise, the women Under-19 competed in the ICC World Cup T20 Asian qualifiers in Malaysia.
They finished third in the group behind the UAE and Thailand. They prevailed over Malaysia, Bhutan and Qatar. The loss to Thailand ended Nepal’s dreams of playing in the World Cup in South Africa.
Also, the tournament will be remembered for Nepal’s disastrous batting performance against the UAE. They were bowled out for just 8 runs in 8.1 overs, setting an unwanted record.
Women cricketers have demonstrated their potential and ability to achieve great results, over and over. They just need the opportunities, the right support and a conducive environment to make a flourishing career.
As things stand, there is a lack of focus and support for the development of women’s cricket in Nepal on all fronts. This has to change in order to take women’s cricket in the right direction.
Busy domestic season
Like every other year, Nepal’s domestic cricket season was busy. Departmental teams were dominant winning a lion’s share of tournaments.
Armed Police Force got the better of Tribhuvan Army Club to lift the 2022/23 prestigious Prime Minister Cup one-day national cricket tournament.
While Nepal Police Club upset favorites Tribhuvan Army Club to win the gold in the 9th National games T20 competition.
Likewise, the women’s T20 Nepal Police Club duplicated the men’s success by defeating Armed Police Force for the gold medal.
Sudurpaschim province got the better of Lumbini province to annex the Wai-wai Under-19 National Cricket 50 overs tournament. Seven provinces across the country featured in the competition organized by CAN.
End of controlled funding
The lifting of the controlled funding imposed on Nepal by the International Cricket Council(ICC) was a major breakthrough.
The end of controlled funding means the cricket body will receive full financial grants just like any Associate Nation with ODI status.
It may be recalled that ICC had suspended CAN in 2016 for government interference and credibility over the election.
Sompal and Rohit dominant
Fast medium pacer Sompal Kami has been a consistent performer and an important team player.
He finished the year on a high finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket. He scalped 35 wickets from 30 matches. In addition, he reached the milestone of completing 50 wickets in an ODI.
On the batting front, the newly appointed skipper of the national team and tremendously gifted Rohit Paudel was Nepal’s highest run scorer.
The youngster known for his batting repertoire amassed 642 runs from 21 matches.
Homegrown talents abroad
It was heartening to see some of our upcoming young talents roped in by teams abroad.
All-rounder Kushal Malla, the world’s youngest half-centurion in ODI was picked by the Gwadar Sharks team for the Pakistan Junior League.
Interestingly, legendary West Indies cricketer Vivian Richards is the mentor of the team.
Similarly, former skipper of Nepal Under-19 Rit Gautam found a new team in New Zealand.
He signed a contract with Geyser city cricket club, in New Zealand to play in domestic competitions.
Another former national player Naresh Budhayer from Kanchanpur, now a Canadian citizen was picked by President Eleven to play in the national high-performance championship in Canada.
Success of EPL
The start of EPL in 2016, the first and biggest tournament of its kind in Nepal was a game changer, heralding a new dawn in Nepali cricket.
So far four editions of the tournament have been completed, putting Nepal back on the world cricket map.
The competition has rapidly grown in stature internationally over the years. Dime-a-dozen present and past international cricketers have been part of the tournament as players and mentors.
CAN’s nightmare and incompetence
CAN’s dream project Nepal T20 franchise cricket league finally kicked off after much speculation and several postponements in Kathmandu.
The tournament featured six teams consisting of 67 home players and 32 foreign players(West Indies, India, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, England and Ireland).
Besides, two well-known names in cricket, former internationals Indian Sandeep Patil and Australian Brett Lee were picked for the mentor role.
The competition was shrouded in controversy even before the first ball was bowled.
CAN’s decision to join hands with the Indian event company Seven3Sports as a commercial and strategic partner for the tournament did not go down well with cricket aficionados.
The choice of the Indian company raised many eyes and drew sharp criticism and rebuke from all quarters.
Obviously, CAN inked the deal with the Indian company in a haste without proper homework, vetting and disregarding the laws of the land.
Furthermore, I would argue that CAN unnecessarily and foolishly cause fury and uproar by stating that they would not sanction a similar franchise competition in the country and added fuel to the fire.
CAN’s bureaucratic incompetence, mismanagement, inefficiency, ignorance, high-handedness and pathetic leadership were on full display.
The latest saga surrounding the NepalT20 League proves that the cricket association blundered on all fronts.
With news of spot-fixing surfacing, the organizer fleeing the country, unpaid players’ wages and poor spectator turnout for matches, the tournament is turning out to be a nightmare for CAN.
In fact, CAN is trapped in a nightmare of its own making. They have no one to blame but themselves.
As long as we have incompetent and unprofessional people in charge of CAN, I don’t see how Nepal cricket can progress.