Tumultus off-field year for Nepal Cricket: 2016 in Retrospect

It is hard to believe that 2016 has gone by so fast. At the same time, it is very important that we look back at, what went right , what went wrong in the last twelve months, and what we should do in the future.

For someone like me who is passionate about Nepali cricket and makes honest attempts to voice opinions , I would be doing myself a disfavor by not reacting to events, both positive and negative,which unfolded around us.

I have taken time to look back at some of the highlights that stood out for me.Perhaps you all agree with me that 2016 was a mix year for Nepali cricket, with its highs and lows; its ups and downs.

In a country like Nepal where cricket reigns the hearts and minds of a majority of sports goers, the sport should have been in a robust state and thriving.

The reality, however, is not the way I/you perceive it . Or things are not quite as one would expect.

True our team has tasted success in all formats of the game. Forgetting not , it is the result of cricketers’ persistent hard work, perseverance ,dedication and determination. In fact,they have achieved more than we anticipated or imagined under challenging circumstances.

They have bravely withstood the overwhelming difficulties in their way and carried on towards achieving their goals.

What really drives them ? Their undying passion to be the best in the sport and achieve greatness, pure and simple.

CAN a big disaster

From a governance perspective, things are not looking rosy for Nepali cricket right now. I blame, here, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), the principal and biggest culprit responsible for the sad state of affairs.

To say that CAN as cricketers worst nightmare would not be an understatement. At least in my opinion.

There is near unanimous agreement that CAN has done more harm than good to cricket and responsible for the present crisis.

The current state of Nepali cricket speaks for itself. I will stress , though, it is stagnant, going nowhere.The so called cricket stakeholders do not give a damn and are only concerned to serve their personal and selfish-interests.

Everyone knows there is no end to politicalization of CAN and continues to be the biggest roadblock to cricket development and progress to date.

With the different factions locked in a battle for power and the government , Sports Ministry and National Sports Council sitting on the sidelines as silent spectators, the problem is bound to worsen in coming days.

The wrangling factions have no intentions whatsoever to bury and resolve their differences, come together and work as a single unit to get the task done. This just so outrageous.

The suspension imposed on CAN by the ICC over government interference was/is very unfortunate. It’s such a shame.The gravity of the situation is self explained.

It was frustrating to see ICC efforts to bring together the two factions prove futile.Left without an option to end the crisis ,the world cricket body formed an advisory group in order to guide the implementation of the ICC’s strategic plan for Nepali cricket and draft a new constitution.

Senior Team Finding Mojo in time

Nepal wins Namibia
Nepal defeated Namibia by 5 wickets in WCLC match in April 16 at Kathmandu. Photo: Pahilopost.com

Amid uncertainties,cricketers looked forward with cautious optimism. Done in by mediocrity in 2015, many wondered if the men’s national team could bounce back and salvage some pride in 2016.

The CAN faction feud almost cost Nepal from staging the all important two match series against Namibia in the ICC World Cricket League Championship (WCLC).

To keep qualifying hopes alive,Nepal was in a must-win situation and came out victorious in the end, much to our relief. Skipper Paras Khadka not only led by example but proved an asset on the team.

The all-rounder struck a masterly 103 in the second match, while experienced Sharad Vesawkar batting was rock solid,scoring 74 and 50 runs in two matches.

Besides, the victory was the result of a concerted team effort and improved performance, as well.

Flying into the Netherlands for the second crucial two match series of the aforementioned competition against the undefeated Dutch side, an acid test awaited Nepal.

The Dutch was expected to whitewash the visitors. It appeared so after they made short work of the opposition in the first match .

Obviously Nepal was gripped by batting woes,which eventually led to their embarrassing defeat.When all seems lost, Nepal made a dramatic comeback to win the second match. Skipper Khadka once again anchored the innings with a responsible 84 to guide his side to victory.

Under-19 Team steals thunder

Nepal U19 batting against Bangladesh U19
Photo: ICC U19 CWC 2016/ ICC

The Under-19 team featured in two major competitions-World Cup in Bangladesh and Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.Of course they were nowhere near as dominant to lift the trophies but their performances drew praise from all quarters.

Their best showing was in the World Cup where they reached the quarterfinals before losing to Bangladesh narrowly. It was a different story in the Asia Cup. The competition did not turn out the way they wanted , but they left a good impression of themselves .

We all agree that the team is packed with talents capable of delivering results that are beyond imagination. They are the real future of Nepali cricket.Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.

Women cricketers rise from slumber

Nepal Women Captain and Pakistan Women Captain. Photo: Raman/CAN

After twenty four months slumber, women cricketers came alive and were back in action much to everyone’s relief.

It is very obvious that CAN is responsible for the upside-down state of women cricket. They continue to neglect it , and there are no signs making the women’s cricket a priority.

The result was a foregone conclusion. Unsurprisingly lack of inadequate preparations contributed to the team’s mediocrity in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Hong Kong. The team was rusty after a long lay off.

They did pretty well to finish second in the four team competition and qualified for the ACC Women’s Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.

The ACC Cup turned out to be an absolute nightmare for the team as they lost all their matches in a big way. In other words, the debacle was mediocrity at its best.

Participation in any form of competition becomes meaningless and merely a formality if the team lacks proper training and adequate preparations

Teenage Sandeep Lamichhane on the rise

Sandeep Lamichhane
Sandeep Lamichhane

Going by his talent, Sandeep Lamichhane looks like he could be a star in the making. In a very short period of time. he has made a huge impression and become the toast of the town.

The teenage rise to prominence and fame has been remarkable. His superlative performance in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh caught the attention of the cricketing world.

In his debut match against Ireland the right-arm leg -break googly bowler made a sensational start, capturing 5 wickets, which included an incredible hat-trick.

In no time, he made his senior Nepal debut against Namibia in the IWCLL Since then he has not looked back and made further inroads.

The 16 year old got a very important breakthrough, following an offer from former Australian captain Michael Clarke to train in his academy and play for his club in Australia.

Furthermore,he was handed the captaincy for the Under-19 Asia Cup held in Sri Lanka. He has a long,long way to go and can achieve a lot more, no doubt.

The big question is: will he reach his cricketing potential ? He can long as he believes in himself, stays disciplined, focussed and committed.

Lord’s Cricket Ground experience

Nepal v MCC at Lord's Cricket Ground

To play at the historical and iconic Lord’s cricket ground in England is a dream , honor and privilege for every cricketer.The dream became reality for many when Nepal played against MCC and went on to win by 41 runs.

Truly a memorable experience that will remain etched in the minds of players, coaches forever.

Controversial Japan Tour

The controversy surrounding the Japan tour undertaken by a team consisting of a handful of Under-19 players and non-cricketers for the Honda Cup was front and center.

It was reported that nine members of the team had no cricketing background and alleged to have been smuggled into Japan under the cover of players. This kind of scandal tarnishes the image of CAN and cricket in general.

This happened under CAN’s nose.Whether or not there is an ongoing investigation, I don’t know. A national disgrace, indeed. It should not have happened and those behind it must be held accountable.

Coming and going of Bhawana Ghimire

The appointment of unknown Bhawana Ghimire as CEO of CAN by ICC,came as a big surprise.She faced a daunting challenge to tackle the sorry state of the affairs.

She showed great determination,poise,administrative skills, however,it made little difference at the end of the day.

There were too many bureaucratic hurdles in the way that undid her ultimately. I reckon the decision to quit was in her best interest. I don’t blame her. To be fair, given so much uncertainty and impediments in Nepali cricket, even the best manager cannot produce effective results on the job.

Wai- Wai Everest Premier League T20 lights up domestic cricket

Panchakanya Tez EPL
Panchakanya Tez

On the domestic front, there were competitions galore. Cricket maintained its popularity and continued to attract huge public interest. Large crowds flocked to watch matches as never seen before.

There was spike in number of aspiring youngsters registering for the game. The biggest tournament of the year was the most talked about Wai- Wai Everest Premier League T20 organized jointly by Zohra Sports Management and CG in Kirtipur.

Unlike the inaugural year of the competition in 2014, it was smooth and free from controversy.

The six participating corporate teams brought together the very best talent in the country. The competition was held amid great fanfare, well organized and a huge success. Every match was broadcast live by Kantipur TV and players were rewarded financially.

2x Cricket USA Cup

Nepali Rhinos comprising players in the likes of Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Basanta Regmi, Sharad Vesawkar, Prithu Baskota, Subash Khakurel, Sompal Kami, Siddhant Lohani alongside US based players Bardan Chalise, Rocky Karn, Sagar Pant and Ravi took part in the eight team competition held in the USA.

They played well winning all their matches and beat Houston Sparks in the final for the title.

Is Mulpani cricket venue a dream only ?

Time and time again, we have heard only empty words and hollow promises made by the government on building infrastructure. We are waiting for it to happen to this day.

Cricket did get a major chunk of Rs.2.4 billion allocated for sports for the fiscal year 2016-17 by the government. Supposedly much of the funds would be used to develop infrastructure.

Mulpani cricket ground, the dream project has been in the pipeline since 2011 and dragging on for too long and remains incomplete. When will it be completed ? I am clueless.Only time will tell. That, in a nutshell,sums up the state of the game in Nepal and disgusting hypocrisy of CAN.

Looking forward to 2017

A stable , non- politicized cricket governing body holds key to the future of cricket. Otherwise, nothing else will ever change. I look forward to a good year at least on the field.