The past one and half years have been very good for Nepali Cricket in its history of more than a decade. The run was started from Nepal’s Under-19 cricket side after they finished the runner-up in ACC U-19 Trophy which got them selected for the ICC Under-19 World cup Qualifier in Ireland a year later.
Nepal U-19 showed a brave performance among the 16 Associate Nations with the strong support of Nepali Fans. Nepal won all the matches except a loss to Scotland and finished second in the tournament. They beat strong Ireland, their very rivals Afghanistan and Kenya, the ODI nation. The star performers of Nepal were mainly bowlers and all-rounders: Rahul Vishwakarma, Pradeep Airee, Sagar Pun, Rajesh Pulami Magar, and Krishna Karki. Captain Prithu Baskota also lead from the front.
Nepal U-19 though, could not repeat the same spirit and performance of Ireland in the ICC Under 19 World Cup, Australia. There were many aspects that could have resulted in a bad result. Getting a live TV match and playing against the world’s best test nations is itself a big achievement, we should consider. There was a flop show of batsman again as only Subash Prasad Khakurel, the opener was consistent throughout the tournament. Nepal ended disappointingly but eventually succeed to finish 13th among the 16 teams. Nepal simply hammered PNG in the last match of their World Cup campaign(13th place playoff match) where Rahul Vishwakarma managed to get an incredible figure of 6.2-4-3-6.
It was an average year for U-19 but the greatest year ever for the Nepals Senior Cricket. They started their campaign from the ACC Twenty20 where they finished fourth and entered the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers. Nepal played great in front of the home crowd and help from Saudi Arabia dramatically led Nepal to enter the semifinal which was the optimum path of the qualifiers.
The Dassanayake’s side now started to rock. With captain Paras leading from the front, Nepal finished seventh off the 16 best associate and affiliate nations. Nepal defeated Kenya, Bermuda, PNG, Oman in a surprising run. Nepal’s Star performers were captain Khadka, dangerous batsman Pradeep followed by a hattrick boy Shakti Gauchan. Gauchan had a first-ever hat rick for Nepal in an international match. Gauchan struck the hat rick against Denmark. Despite not being selected for the T20 World Cup, Nepal finished the tournament on a high note showing the world that we are coming soon to World Cup. After the tournament, Captain Paras expressed that if the conditions are good and we receive good support from everyone, the world cup is not that far.
After the tournament in UAE, Nepal had its focus on the Division League. They were focused to take the journey ahead which was shattered with a shocking Defeat to Tanzania in Division 4 Italy in 2010. New coach Pubudu Dassanayake provided good practice to players after he sent some of them to foreign countries. Paras Khadka played for Ontario Cricket Academy & Club in Canada, Shakti Gauchan was invited for a trial in the Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals, and the star pacers from Nepal, Amrit Bhattarai and Chandra Sawad were sent to Sri Lanka to play Sri Lanka Under 23 Premier League. All the players had an impressive show while Khadka was the star performer in the Ontario Cricket club Canada with the remaining leading run-scorer for the club till his play.
With a target of winning the tournament, Nepal headed towards Sri Lanka where they had the short practice and played some friendlies, and then the team headed for the tournament to Malaysia. Nepal achieved the target in style with six straight wins. We did see that Nepal had really improved their game. 6 different players of the match were simply amazing. Nepal’s traditional batting problem was not shown in the single match. It made jubilant and hopeful to the all crazy Nepali cricket fans.
It was an all-around team game for Nepal as each player was contributing to their role. Young 19-year-old batsman Subash Khakurel proved his coach right for his selection and showed a lot of promise with 208 runs in the tournament including a Century (115). Anil Mandal showed consistency with a second century for Nepal in the tournament. Player of the tournament, Basant Regmi became the first Nepali player to finish the tournament with the lead wicket-taker with 21 wickets. Paras Khadka shined with bowl and bat when needed. Gyanendra Malla and Pradeep Airee proved themself when needed.
So winning the Division Four title is the greatest achievement ever for Nepali cricket but also a big challenge ahead. In fact, it’s now or never for the development of Nepali cricket. Now we have to keep this momentum and have to reach at least Division 1. How much will Nepali fans have to wait? The country which entered almost after 6 years Nepal in international cricket, Afghanistan has already got ODI Status. So, in fact, we are years back in this stage also. If we cannot keep this momentum going it will be really hard to come back again.
So Nepali Cricket should take advantage of this momentum and good form to the Division 3 title. As Division 3 finalist can play 2015 World cup Qualifier, who knows if we can play the world cup.
So current Nepali team is looking most balanced and best ever in the history of 10 years! So it’s now or never for the Nepali team to fulfill the dream of playing the World Cup and to fulfill the wish of millions of crazy Nepali Cricket Fans.
For this, we have to start hard practice and good preparation from now. If the players really work hard and the Cricket Association of Nepal do proper management for the team, nobody can stop us from getting ODI Status and playing World Cup.
If we fail this time it will be very hard to get momentum back and hard to keep faith for crazy millions of cricket fans.
JAY NEPAL JAY NEPAI CRICKET