There will be plenty of familiar sights and sounds at the Tribhuvan University International Cricket ground in Kirtipur as local cricket aficionados gear up for the vital Nepal vs Kenya clash in the 50- over ICC World Cup League Championship.
The two -match series holds tremendous significance for both sides. They are still in the danger zone and desperately fighting each other to secure a spot in the final round.
Currently Kenya and Nepal are fifth and sixth respectively in the eight team league table standings. With the top four teams advancing to the last round, there is plenty at stakes for both teams.
Last year in the same competition before Nepal played Namibia at home, they were in a hopeless position and faced two must win games to keep their slim hopes alive.
Much to everyone’s relief,the home side put together a big performance to win both matches. Later that year they stunned the undefeated Dutch side in the Netherlands to split the two-match series,thus earning valuable points.
The situation is slightly better this time around, but the challenge is still big. As part of preparations for the competition, Nepal under took a week long tour of India ,where they played a handful of friendlies.
Undoubtedly, Nepal is under tremendous pressure to deliver results. They cannot afford any more slip-ups or mediocre performance. Else their qualifications chance can fizzle out.
One thing is certain,it will not be smooth sailing .They have to apply the best of themselves to the task at hand.
They must stay focussed, confident, composed and do their very best in the field. They need to display form shown last year at home to beat Namibia. If they can do it,they stand a pretty good chance of winning.
More than anything, Team Nepal has to get to a fast start by building early momentum.Therefore, winning the first match is imperative. They do enjoy a slight edge over Kenya going into the series in terms of home advantage.
Nepal must capitalize on home field advantage to benefit and gain ascendency over the opposition.They will have the support of passionate, vociferous home fans who have high expectations.
The Nepali side is a blend of experience and youth. The biggest surprise has been the selection of veteran Mehboob Alam. Coming off surgery, Paras Khadka is in charge but his status is uncertain for Saturday’s game.
Skipper Khadka might still lack match fitness and match practice.Should that be the case, It would be a blunder to include him in the team.
Batting is Nepal’s real Achilles heel, therefore , a lot will depend on how they bat. In skipper Khadka’s absence, in form Gyanendra Malla will have to shoulder the responsibility and lead by example.
He along with Sharad Vesawkar, Aarif Shaikh, Dipendra Airee,Binod Bhandari and Sagar Pun have to bat with more responsibility. They have to be disciplined, extra committed and bat to their potential.
Nepal will largely rely on spin attack to restrict the opposition from amassing a big total. Seasoned spinner Shakti Gauchan will join hands with Basant Regmi, Sagar Pun, Sandeep Lamichhane and Sompal Kami.
All eyes will be upon young leg -spinner Lamichhane who is expected to play a pivotal role in the bowling department. Having spent some time training in Australia and having captained the under-19 team, he is slowly developing into a terrific bowler.
Nepal face a talented Kenyan side determined,eager to prove themselves and regain their lost glory. The visitors are confident of a good show and their morale is high. They are on song after their successful tour of Baroda, India where they played four friendlies,winning three and losing one.
They have depth in their batting line-up that revolves around Irfan Karim, Alex Obanda and Dhiren Gondaria. Talented pacers Odhiambo duo Nehemiah and Nelson are expected to spearhead the bowling attack.
Nepal vs Kenya clash is expected to be played to the full gallery. There are signs that a fascinating, intriguing and interesting tussle maybe in the offing.