Nepal’s Asia Cup journey ends

Predictably, overwhelming favorites India made short work of Nepal in the 2023 Asia Cup 50-over one day international played in Sri Lanka on Monday.

The highly rated and experienced Indian outfit registered a comfortable 10- wicket victory against minnows Nepal in a rain shortened match. The win secured them a spot in the Super Four.

Intermittent rain almost ruined the match before India began their run chase.

When rain finally ceased some play was possible much to the relief and delight of cricket aficionados.

Given the circumstances, the overs were reduced and India had to score 145 runs in 23 overs to win, which they did with relative ease.

In a display of confident, solid and aggressive batting openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill virtually ran away with the match, handing a comprehensive victory to their team in 20.1 overs.

Both Sharma and Gill remained undefeated on 74 and 67 respectively. They were on top of the bowlers from the word go.

They tore apart the bowling attack making it look very ordinary. They were unstoppable reaching the winning target with 17 balls to spare.

Clearly, Team Nepal’s light bowling resources came up well short. The bowling attack lacked the depth to trouble and contain the openers.

India chose to field after winning the toss, and the one question in everyone’s mind was, how will Nepal’s batters face up to the opposition’s high quality bowling attack?

The batters needed to reinvigorate, recharge, reinvent themselves, and improve their performance dramatically to avoid another batting slump.

They had to post a fighting total in order to stay relevant in the match and have an outside chance to upset the apple cart.

It was possible only through a solid opening partnership and equally important contribution from top down batting order.

Unlike the opening match against Pakistan, Nepal’s batting did not crumble like a house of cards.

The opening batters Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh brilliantly withstood the big match pressure and gave their team a perfect start.

The partnership yielded 65 runs before Bhurtel departed for a laborious 38 runs. While Sheikh cracked a fighting 58, becoming the first Nepali cricketer to score a half century in Asia Cup.

Interestingly the openers benefited immensely from the opposition’s uncharacteristic sloppy fielding and a host of dropped catches in the first five overs.

The Indian bowlers struck back to stem the run flow, taking wickets at regular intervals. After the departure of both openers, the batting vulnerability was exposed as the middle order failed yet again.

The lower order batters, however, rose to the occasion and steadied the innings through aggressive batting. They managed to get to a decent total of 230 in 48.2 overs.

Speedster Sompal Kami scored a brilliant 48,barely missing the half-century mark by 2 runs.

Likewise, all-rounder Dipendra Singh Airee and young pace bowler Gulshan Jha, who is shaping up to be an all-rounder chipped in 29 and 23 runs respectively.

All in all, the young Nepali team put in a gutsy performance against powerhouse India to earn praise and admiration from all quarters.

Team Nepal’s Asia Cup journey ended, following two successive defeats but there is absolutely no reason for them to feel apathetic, dejected, demoralized and ashamed.

As a matter of fact, they were in a win- win position going into the tournament and lost nothing at the end.

They must hold their heads high. The championship was a great experience and an invaluable learning curve for them playing against the world’s top teams.

I am pretty sure players have realized what it really takes to reach their level of standard, performance and success.

Also they will not hide the fact that there still remains a lot of hard work for them in order to get to the highest level of the sport.

Keeping that in mind, they must be one hundred percent committed, disciplined, motivated and focused on making strides forward.

Indisputably, the current crop of players are very talented and capable of playing much better cricket.

Sadly, the overall state of Nepal cricket which is far from desired is hindering players progress, development and cricket success internationally. The scenario has not changed for decades.

Lack of infrastructure, investment and intent by Cricket Association of Nepal, run by politicized unprofessional, coupled with poor domestic cricket structure continue to slow down cricket development and ruin players careers.

I feel sorry for players who have been badly let down by the cricket body. What Nepal cricket needs is effective management, an association (free from political influences) governed by true committed honest professionals.

But if not, the present scenario will remain unchanged and cricketers’ woes will continue unabated.