Nepal Men, Opinion

Nepal faces litmus test in Asia Cup

The men’s national cricket team of Nepal is gearing up to make their maiden appearance in the 2023 Asia Cup cricket tournament in Pakistan.

They are in a very tough group alongside two of the world’s finest cricketing teams, India and Pakistan. It will be a litmus test for Nepal-there is no two ways about it.

The youthful Nepal outfit, captained by the top order batter young Rohit Paudel, takes on one of the heavyweights of world cricket, Pakistan, in the opener of the 50-over one-day international tourney Wednesday in Multan, Pakistan.

It is not an overstatement to say that Team Nepal has an uphill climb against the mighty opposition, who are overwhelming favourites to win.

Although, like any sport, cricket is known for its unpredictability and uncertainty, given the history, statistics and strengths of Pakistan, Coach Monty Desai’s boys have a herculean task of defying the odds stacked against them.

On top of that, the highly experienced Pakistani side will be at full strength and playing at home. Do not expect them to take any chances against minnows Nepal.

Before Pakistan’s highly anticipated high-octane clash against arch-rivals India, the opener against Nepal provides them with a perfect tune-up match.

Coming back to Team Nepal, competing, they are aware of their underdog status; however, it should not be a distraction.

Though they stand little chance against the fancied opponent, they mustn’t hit the panic button and put themselves under needless psychological pressure.

Everyone knows Nepal is pitted against two technically superior opponents who are expected to win with relative ease.

I have maintained all along that the opportunity to play in the Asia Cup in itself is a big achievement for Nepal.

In my opinion, Nepal is in a win-win position regardless of the final outcome. They have nothing to lose whatsoever.

They have to approach the challenge with a positive mindset, razor-sharp focus and rock-solid determination and give their best efforts.

The players should not forget the fact that the Asia Cup provides them with one of the biggest platforms to showcase their talent.

The cricketing world eyes will be upon the tournament. This is the moment to seize, shine and perform to their potential.

They cannot afford to squander the chance and burst like bubbles without a semblance of a fight.

A tournament of this stature provides them a lifetime opportunity to play against the world’s top-flight teams.

Kushal Bhurtel of Nepal plays a shot during the ACC Men’s Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2023 cricket match between Nepal and United Arab Emirates A at the P. Saravanamuttu International cricket Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka on July 19, 2023.
Photo by: Pankaj Nangia / Creimas / Asian Cricket Council

They will benefit immensely from every aspect of the tournament. Apart from getting invaluable exposure and experience, they will learn the finer points of the game as well. It’s such an important competition for Team Nepal-they should make the most of it.

It is imperative that they play cricket of the highest quality against the high-quality opposition. This is possible only if they rise above mediocrity and slackness in every department of the game.

Going by Nepal’s recent international performances, batting inconsistency is a major concern. The team has struggled to find a consistent and reliable batting lineup.

The batters must turn things around to avoid humiliating defeats. The challenge is a lot bigger for them in the Asia Cup, as they are up against a high-quality bowling attack. Once again, batting will be key to the team’s overall performance.

The lack of genuine fast bowlers has exposed Nepal’s bowling department time and time again. Medium-fast pacers Karan KC, Sompal Kami and upcoming Ghulshan Jha, have quite a load on their shoulders.

After much suspense and speculation, a leg break spinner, Sandeep Lamichhane, will be in the playing eleven. He joined the team in Pakistan following the postponement of the final hearing of the rape case. He stands accused of raping a minor.

He is the backbone of the bowling attack. I wonder if the rape case has taken its toll on his state of mind. That remains to be seen.

The bowlers have a daunting task as they face world-class batters in the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Rohit Sharma, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq.

They require a high degree of consistency, effective, and controlled bowling to stop batters from going on a batting rampage. They must be at their very best throughout.

Let us hope Nepal shows grit, determination and fights tooth and nail against all odds to make a lasting impression.