Nepali cricketers in search of glory in Asian Games

Fairfax – The 17th Asian Games in Icheon, South Korea is just a stone’s throw away. Nepalese athletes are gearing up to compete in multiple disciplines, hoping to perform well and make the most of every opportunity.

The prospect of winning medals, however, looks increasingly remote. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to underestimate our athlete’s ability.

I understand they are ambitious, talented, hard working, committed and doing all it takes to achieve success. That said, nobody disputes the fact that our athletes lack the desired standard and level of preparedness required to make a positive impact in a sporting meet of Asian Games stature.

We are up against the very best athletes of Asia who are better trained, prepared, equipped, physically stronger and in a healthier state of mind. That is the reality. I just hope I am totally wrong. I have all the respect and sympathy for athletes who have dedicated their lives to sports.

They have long suffered at the hands of the government that has outright ignored sports development all along. To make matters worse, in recent years, successive governments also have shown no interest whatsoever to prioritize sports and instead allowed it to stagnate further.

The game of cricket in Nepal has had its own share of woes and there seems to be no end in sight. Like any other sport, it remains stuck in doldrums of persistent decline and underdevelopment. The implications are profound, both for cricket and cricketers.

So far it has been a tale of never ending struggles, hardships obstacles, controversies, difficulties and problems for cricketers. Also it has been a huge distraction for them. Yet their pure love and passion for the game keeps them going.

I understand what it means and takes to compete against the odds. Against that backdrop, the men and women’s cricket teams are in the fray, vying for top honors. Cricket lovers have always remained optimistic, supportive through tough times. Their support for the team has been rock solid and remains so to date.

Speaking of the 17th Asian Games challenge, we are in intriguing match ups, and, in fact, face familiar opponents against whom we have frequently clashed. I have a gut feeling that something good is going to happen in terms of results. We stand a realistic chance of winning medals.

I have exuded confidence about the teams because I strongly feel that way. But I will say this, though; success has to be earned the hard way. Cricket made its debut at the 16th Asian Games in China. We entered in both men and women’s competition with high hopes and expectations.

However, poor preparations and mediocrity underscored our performance. The men finished a disappointing 8th with one win and two defeats while the women wound up 5th,winning 1 and losing 2 matches.

Since then the men’s national team has shown remarkable improvement and registered a string of impressive victories, internationally.

They put up a sterling performance at the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh to win the imagination of the cricket community. They have proved their ability to the world, time and time again. I am pretty sure nobody doubts their ability as a team.

The men’s competition features South Korea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. For the second straight Asian Games, India and Pakistan stayed away from the tournament.

Likewise, Nepal, South Korea, Thailand, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are competing in the women’s event. Putting domestic problems and distractions aside, they go into the Asian Games with confidence, morale high and plenty of experiences

Skipper Paras Khadka and company must now prove their World Cup performance is more than flash in the pan. It is doable, no doubt. First and foremost, players must display the burning desire to succeed and put in outstanding efforts, individually and as a team.

More or less, barring a few changes, it is the same squad that played at the Bangladesh World Cup.

In the preliminary round Nepal takes on Kuwait and Maldives. Going by the strengths and weaknesses, they start as favorites and should get past them without much having to stretch ourselves to the limit.

That being said, the team has to adopt a strategy of caution and respect when it comes to tackling them.

At the same time, they must perform to their potential and avoid the mistake of becoming overconfident and underestimating the opponents. Presuming they advance to the quarterfinals, the real challenge begins in earnest there onwards. There is no room for complacency and mediocrity.

Players must put in hard work, extra commitment combined with solid mental toughness. Equally importantly, they need to play to prove a point, remain razor focused, disciplined, and show consistent all round performance, coupled with aggression and good fielding.

Our women cricketers will need to be sharp, consistent from the start, shrugging of the lethargy to have any chance to win a medal. They are up against Malaysia and China in the early round. And it is very important that they get off to a winning start.

In the Twenty20 format, obviously, the team that plays well wins. And nothing can be taken for granted. Anything is possible.

Hopefully, both teams deliver the goods and come out with flying colors.

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA