2017 might not have ended well or with a big bang for Nepal cricket, but every cloud has a silver lining. Despite uncertainties, all is not lost, at least.There is still hope lurking on the horizon.
Looking back on 2017, more than anything, much of the focus was on Nepal’s performances and results in international tournaments all along.
Although anticipation from hardcore cricket fans was high, they did not get what they wanted. For the most part, they were left to cope with disappointment and failure when it came to results. The only time they erupted in ecstasy and got to celebrate was when Nepal got the better of India.
Like always, Nepali cricket teams competed internationally throughout the year. Both men and women sides featured in a good number of different formats of the competition, however, fell well short of achieving what was desired.
The year’s major highlight was Nepal’s performance at the ACC under-19 Asia Cup held in Malaysia that caught everyone’s attention.
Nepal’s win over overwhelming favorites India was a stunner and dubbed as a historic result. In fact, the victory was the first ever for Nepal in a competition of this magnitude, and definitely, it was quite an achievement.
Nepal, however, fumbled their Asia Cup dreams in the semifinal loss to the ultimate winners Afghanistan. They had no answer to the opposition’s dominant performance in every department of the game that proved too hot to handle at the end of the day.
They were literally overwhelmed and bogged down. Fragile batting contributed largely to their downfall…The young guns, the future of Nepal cricket, did display lots of poise, ability, and promise, but they lacked consistency and tenacity to deliver the goods when it mattered most.
There is no doubt that one glaring weakness lies in the batting, the team’s biggest Achilles’ heel for years, and once again a price had to be paid.The batting needs to be dramatically improved, strengthened and consolidated to achieve ultimate success. Overall, it was a good performance but lessons must be learned and positives are taken.
A new method or a new approach is needed to overcome batting weaknesses and flaws. Otherwise, the team will continue to experience further disappointments and setbacks.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the depth of talent in the team is in abundance. The talents of emerging stars in the likes of Dipendra Singh Airee, Sandeep Lamichhane, Shahab Alam and much more have provided a little breathing space for Nepal cricket.
Prior to that, Nepal Under-19’s effort to qualify for ICC under-19 World Cup went up in smoke after losing to nemesis Afghanistan in the final group match.
They registered 4 wins and lost 3, totalling 8 points to finish 2nd in the group. Leave alone Afghanistan, Nepal’s batting frailties were exposed admittedly against weaker opponents, as well. The bowlers stood out to save the day.
If I am to pick one player who had an outstanding season that would be the right-arm leg break googly sensational Sandeep Lamichhane. What a year he had. He dazzled in both Asia Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
In the World Cup qualifiers, he scalped 24 wickets including a fantastic 7 against Malaysia to become the tournament’s highest wicket-taker. Rightly so, the highly talented spin maestro was adjudged player of the tournament.
Likewise, he followed with another superb performance at the Asia Cup. With a total of 9 wickets in his kitty, he was the tournament’s third-highest wicket-taker. He is blossoming into a lethal and classy bowler.
The senior national team’s inability to turn their run of poor form is a matter of big concern. They further dipped into mediocrity, losing key matches to Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
The consecutive defeats ended Nepal’s challenge in the ICC WCL Championship Division 1. They had to pay dearly for the failure as they were relegated to Division 2, indeed a big blow.
By no means, it is over for Nepal. They join Canada, Kenya, Namibia, United Arab Emirates and Oman to compete in the ICC WCL Championship Division 2 in the second week of February 2018 in Namibia for the final two ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier spots.
Unless they up the ante and turn things around, I do not fancy their chances, The national side skippered by Paras Khadka is clearly lacking quality batsmen (both top and middle order) and consistency, and it has become a regular occurrence.
Everyone agrees that there is a gaping hole in the batting that needs big-time improvement. As seen, time and time again, matches have been meekly surrendered due to alarming inconsistent, irresponsible and technically flawed batting.
The search must be for a new generation of young talented and reliable batsmen who are able to provide respectability, consistency, and stability to batting.
Women cricketers’ woes continue to multiply, and they are struggling mightily to stay competitive in international cricket. The lack of support and recognition, coupled with the poor domestic structure has only made matters worse.
On the domestic front, there were competitions aplenty. The second edition of the Everest Premier League Twenty20, Nepal’s biggest cricket spectacle, generated unprecedented excitement and interest in cricket goers.
The tournament held in Tribhuvan University ground featured six teams, featuring players from Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, In the final, Paras Khadka led Biratnagar Warriors beat Bhairahawa Gladiators by 1 run in a nail-biting finish.
Pakistan-born Hong Kong cricketer Pakistani Babar Hayat (Warriors) 318 runs were the highest run-getter, while Israrullah(Rhinos) and Basant Regmi (Warriors) with 12 wickets each shared the bowling honours Aamir Akhtar, founder of the tournament deserves round of applause for his endeavour.
No doubt, the international cricket body has done a huge favour by not banning Nepal from international participation, despite controversies surrounding Nepal cricket.
However, I strongly feel both International Cricket Council and Asia Cricket Council are guilty of doing very little to end the impasse in the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) that has caused irreparable damage to cricket, severely affecting the all-around development and progress.
They have resorted to waiting and seeing policy for far too long, which has only deteriorated the matter further.
Unfortunately, there are no indications that the crisis besetting Nepal cricket will end soon. The government has turned a blind eye and does not give a damn. The guilty parties responsible and accountable for the current state of cricket are shamelessly still at each other’s throats, fighting for the power grab.
Regardless, under very uncertain, challenging and difficult circumstances, cricket has survived mainly because of cricketers and cricket aficionados’ love for the game and unflagging support.
Moving forward, there is no question that cricket will survive, but it makes no sense if our goal is to carve ourselves a niche in international cricket.
The landscape of how cricket is run in Nepal has to change, for that matter. The focus must be on reforming the way the cricket body is governed. Building transparency, accountability, integrity, honesty, and professionalism at CAN is of paramount importance.
Also, we must create an environment that is conducive to achieving long-term on-field success. The consequences of failing to do so will only compound the problems.ICC and ACC must take a proactive stance in dealing with the present crisis and help Nepal cricket wriggle out of the deep mess. Otherwise, nothing will ever change, and this does not portend well for Nepal’s cricket future.