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The Hits and Flops Series: Anil, Aarif, Rohit light it up

Jan 03, 2018 | Cricketingnepal |

The blockbuster hit Everest Premier League (EPL) laid a perfect platform for Nepali cricketers to showcase their talent. For youngsters it was a platform to get exposed to competitive playing conditions, while for the settled names who had been running out of form would enjoy the opportunity bail themselves out from strings of criticism.

In a tournament where foreign players made much impact, very few number of Nepali youngsters managed to steal the limelight. At the other side of the story, few big names inflated by their past performance, got punctured. In this series we will subsequently be presenting you, the hits and flops of EPL and those who couldn't meet expectations.

And today, The Hits will find their place in the first series:

Anil Sah (Biratnagar Warriors)

A part of the youth team that scripted a historic victory over India in the ACC U-19 Asia Cup, Anil has risen up the ranks under his EPL skipper Paras Khadka. In a batting line-up that largely revolved around Hong Kong's Babar Hayat and Anshuman Rath, Anil's best performance with the bat came against Lalitpur Patriots making a 35-ball 47. His innings kept Paras under shadow, evident by clean hitting against tournament's fastest bowler Subodh Bhati.

With Babar, Anshuman and Paras doing most of the scoring, Anil had rare chance to prove with the bat playing the last two overs of the game in rest of the games barring the final. Anil scored an all-important 22 runs in the final against Bhairahawa Gladiators who eventually went on to lose the game by one run in a dramatic final.

The final became also the best setting for Anil to prove himself as a bowler as well. Bowling under a pressure situation when the game was swinging either way, Anil cleverly bowled the final over where Gladiators needed nine runs. Despite being hit for boundary in the first ball, he perfectly recovered by picking up two wickets and conceding just three runs after that. It was the only occasion Anil had bowled in the tournament. His athleticism in the field was another weapon for Paras to put all his trust on Anil.

Rohit Kumar Paudel (Bhairahawa Gladiators)

For those aware of Rohit's capability in the field, the performance he put in with the bat in Gladiators' run-up to the final could be the thing that they had expected. But the way how Rohit bludgeoned during the tournament looked quite sensational. All eyes were set on Binod Bhandari, who played for Pokhara Rhinos and was expecting to hit back his critics hard. But Rohit bettered Bhandari.

Ultimately named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, it was Rohit whose two terrific knocks -- both against Lalitpur Patriots -- put Gladiators into the final. In the league stage when Gladiators needed 26 runs from last two overs in chase of 142 runs, Rohit smashed veteran medium pacer Mehboob Alam for 18 runs to settle the game for his side. His confidence against a senior bowler in getting big shots was worth watching. He ended up scoring 31 runs from just 11 deliveries.

Patriots were served dejavu when both sides met again in the second Qualifier and once again Rohit blanked them. Needing 13 runs from the last six balls in chase of 133 runs, Rohit was facing Indian bowler Dipesh Bhandari. But an ever-confident Rohit would hit Bhandari for two consecutive sixes in the first two balls to calm the nerves. Upping the ante late after a cautious start, Rohit made 17-ball 28 in that match. Gladiators were in final and Rohit would now be a person who will be cheered when he enters to bat at the TU Stadium again.

Aarif Sheikh (Bhairahawa Gladiators)

Aarif is the leading run scorer among the local boys in the EPL where international recruits cling on to the top four spots. Aarif began the tournament on high note, remaining unbeaten in his first two matches -- against Kathmandu Kings XI and Lalitpur Patriots. He didn't have the best of the day against Warriors but bounced back in the best possible way slamming a 47-ball 48 against Pokhara Rhinos. The two sixes at square leg and long on against Pakistani seamer Taj Wali was the delight to watch for spectators.

Gladiators went on to lose the first Qualifier against Warriors but it was Aarif who bailed out his team from a precarious position of 27-4 in 8.1 overs sharing 82 runs with Puneet Mehra. He made 35-ball 46 in that game and looked in fine frittle against Sri Lankan seamer Sahan Adeesha against whom he hit consecutive six to provide the lift to the team total. In the second Qualifier against Patriots where Rohit stole the show, Aarif made six runs. Aarif ended the tournament with a 26-ball 27 against Warriors in the final and picked up the prized scalp of eventual man-of-the-series Babar Hayat.

With a total of 187 runs from eight matches, Aarif was the local boy with the best average (46.75) in the tournament. The body language he showed against some of the best fast bowlers in EPL was the best positive sign for Nepali cricket as Aarif is gradually becoming an integral part of the senior national team. He now has to convert his domestic exploits into international arena. With eight wickets under his belt, Aarif could have walked away with the man-of-the-series award had he helped Gladiators cross the finish line in the final.

Paras Khadka (Biratnagar Warriors)

The national team skipper has done it once again. He has the habit of proving why he has firmly strengthened his grip over leadership of whichever team he gets. Whether its Region No 3 Kathmandu and Nepal APF Club in the Nationals, Team Chauraha Dhangadhi in Dhangadhi Premier League or Biratnagar Warriors in the EPL, Paras has mostly made every tournament his own. The best habit that Paras has developed is being the big match man.

With Babar Hayat and Anshuman Rath doing bulk of the scoring, his EPL did look calm but his cameos at No 4 had set the tone for Warriors in all of the matches. The master stroke came in the final for Paras who cleverly bowled himself and operated Anil Sah perfectly at the closing overs to deprive Gladiators off the title. After scoring a 22-ball 27 with the bat, Paras returned with the ball to snatch an outright victory from Gladiators.

Needing 11 runs from the last 12 balls with Aarif and Rohit at the crease, Paras conceded just two runs and sent back both the batsmen in the single over to bring his team back in the game. Anil did the rest by conceding seven runs in the final over. Paras best score was a quickfire 24-ball 42 not out in the Qualifier against Gladiators. He was second among Nepali batsmen in tournament's leading scorers making 175 runs. He also picked up 10 wickets -- the best figures coming in the nerve wracking final.


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