In Focus

Pepsi Standard Chartered One-Day National Cricket Tournament: Review

Many criticized the timing of the National Cricket league, largely due to the persistent rain and mostly the dull fixtures that failed to live up to the expectation of the cricket lovers. Here is a look at the recently concluded tournament.

Police also formed a team:
The build up to the tournament was to some extent dominated by the messy preparation of formation of Nepal Police team. It was noticed that the players were asked to gather at the police academy and were made to stay under the sun for a couple of hours without much purpose. They were even not contracted and played as a team in the league without knowing their fates. They however proved to the police that they were worth getting jobs when they reached the final. APF and Nepal Police team first time played in the National cricket league.

Baffling format of the league:
It was not till the end of the league when the format of the league was criticized as quite traditional and CAN was criticized for hastily finishing the league shunning semi final matches. CAN certainly managed to save some money but compromised with the cricket. The grouping of the teams also made it quite predictable to guess the teams that could make it to final.

Controversies that overshadowed cricket:
A PIL case already registered in Supreme Court against the cricket operation by CAN, what made it even worse for them was the sponsor controversy of Region no 1 Biratnagar. Shangri- La Cricket Academy managed to bring in sponsor, exclusively for the players of Biratnagar, only to be intervened by the CAN, powered by the unwritten guidelines and rule of mouth. It exposed the lack of professionalism in CAN and it further reinforced the need of system of contract with the players. The friction between the players and CAN reached to another level when Janakpur players threatened to boycott the succeeding T 20 league asking for apology from the CAN over the proceeding of last league match between Bhairahawa and APF team. Janakpur claimed that the outcome of that match denied them to reach the final. It snowballed further and CAN formed a probe committee. (See press release section for more details) What is more important to understand here is that all those controversies that surrounded the league can be attributed to the outstanding problems within cricket administration and those were reflective of cumulative implications that would surface in due time. The same old story of meager allowances for the players made headlines this time as well. But it seemed that the script would remain same and CAN officials would continue to be red faced if asked about that. They had no answer to the questions pertaining to players’ welfare.

Poor ground facilities:
Ground at Pulchowk engineering College would always turn into a headache for the grounds men even after a short rainfall. The outfield was almost unsuitable for the play but one must give credit to the amazing adaptability of our players. They are genius on their own to have played in such outfields. The so called only international ground at TU, Kirtipur was graced by sightscreens that were hanging like old nests of birds and the outfield rather looked like grazing field for cattle. It proved to be a bone of contention when APF personnel were allowed to enter the ground to clear the water in a bid to make the field suitable for the match. It exposed the lack of equipments and manpower at the disposal for CAN. The helplessness brought more embarrassment for the CAN. It jeopardized the spirit of the game of cricket and stressed self-centrism over the natural justice. The match will be remembered for the selfish decisions by the Bairahawa and APF team to go ahead with the play since both teams were in a tricky positions to reach the final after a win. Henceforth, Spirit of the game was compromised. CAN was once again at its usual best in dillydallying the whole proceeding. This incidence has once again exposed the fading respect of CAN officials and their way of operating cricket.

Quality of cricket- a point to wonder:
Quality definitely has gone down and centralized cricket activities can be owed to this scenario. This is not the shift of power in Nepalese cricket rather this is an apathy of CAN to spread the game in the more resourceful terai region and other cricket hubs. Numbers are evident. One can observe how few events are organized outside Kathmandu. The lack of events ad exposure have been the major drawbacks for the regional team to bag the sponsors. The news of 4 regional teams grabbing sponsors made a wave in the media. In the hindsight, this was purely the incompetence of the regional committees to bid for and host the national events. It only made the CAN more dominating and allowed them to dictate the terms. If careful observation is made into the regional sponsorship conundrums, one can understand that it was CAN ‘s sympathy towards those regions which committees have been more faithful to the bigwigs at CAN. It was further validated by the fact that most of those regional sponsorships agreement were signed by the central members of CAN rather than regional chairman or representatives.

Moving away from the administrative foul play, even the cricketing fronts displayed a diminishing quality. The forts and force are weakened, thanks to the signing of star players by the all-of-sudden influencing Police sides. There were hardly any glimpses of new talents in the making. The same old routine was on display. The tournament was dull and had produced only one match with some perspectives, the final between APF and Nepal Police. Nepalese cricket will surely be at the receiving end if CAN does not design and develop a talent hunt program. The sole national event is not going to help the cause. The dearth of new talents and lack of passion and enthusiasm among the players (players claim that they are frustrated at the facilities and they are entitled to receive Rs. 350 per day that is just nothing) is worrisome. At this juncture where there is no coach appointed, this will further hurt the cause of identifying and grooming new talents. We can’t go back from here. Cricket definitely needs young legs and sadly there have not been many in the pool.

Horses for the Courses:
With no exceptional brilliance from the new kids, old war horses proved their mettle. Shakti Gauchan was into the thick of actions and was declared the best bowler and the man-of-the series. Mehabob Alam again proved why he is still considered the biggest star of Nepalese cricket. National skipper Paras Khadka played a chanceless knock to guide the APF team home in the final. Sharad Vesawkar showed some brilliance of his yesteryears. Puspa Thapa did himself a world of good by putting up some wonderful all round performances and hence pushed his claim for the national side. Antim Thapa showed some promises and was adjudged Best Batsman while Sunil Bista of Biratnagar did have some reckonings. Rest fell into the category of bits and pieces.

Some picks from here and there:
One of the selectors disgracefully asked the players ( mostly the national squad members) to stand up and leave the area when the players were sitting in the vacant gallery meant for the media). Players were shell shocked at this but did not resort to any means of protest due to the fear of losing chance of national selection. Any guess who the selector was?

Nepal Police Team has learned few tricks from the CAN. They have not yet completed all the necessary formalities and the whole team is playing without contracts. Moreover, few players within the team were utterly disgusted at the handling and captaining of the side by former National captain Binod Das. Few things will never change

It was quite a sight when the CAN officials were complaining that players did not greet them. After their complain, few players were seen greeting the officials even by asking for their attentions and going close to them. Quite a scene.

SSP of APF Durga Kunwar was seen playing in the league. It was reported that he was playing as a replacement of Dipendra Chaudhary who was asked for justification by CAN for his antics ( as seen by CAN) in the media for bringing defame to CAN.

Review By: Surya Thapaliya (Surya Thapaliya is an officer at Nepal Tourism Board)