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Ton-making Gyanendra continues to live life on edge

Dec 18, 2019 | CN Staff |

Adarsha Dhakal, Pokhara

Gyanendra Malla produced rare but one of the finest innings in domestic cricket while slamming a whirlwind century against Dhangadhi Blues in the Pokhara Premier League on Wednesday.

Centuries have been elusive for Nepali batsmen in domestic Twenty20 franchise leagues with only Aashif Sheikh managing to get into triple figures almost four years ago. Aasif had scored a century against Colors X-Factor in the final of the 2016 Everest Premier League won by Panchakanya Tez.

Overall, Gyanendra was the third player to make franchise league century after Aasif and Ravi Inder Singh who played for Bhairahawa Gladiators in the Everest Premier League. Singh had struck a 60-ball 125 not out against Pokhara Rhinos in last season's Everest Premier League.

He came into the Pokhara Premier League after being in the firing line with a run of poor form that began with the First Class match against Marylebone Cricket Club. He was then dismissed for two two-ball ducks against India and Hong Kong in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup  

But Gyanendra's century of Wednesday was not only the fastest that beat Singh's 47-ball and Aashif's 59-ball ton. It will also go down as one of the greatest innings from a Nepali batsman in domestic cricket owing to his approach towards the game. That attitude was evident when he clobbered a six off Bikram Thagunna to complete his half century in 24 deliveries.

Thagunna alone was clobbered by Gyanendra for 20 runs in that over. He reached 98 after striking spinner Anil Kharel for two consecutive sixes in the penultimate over. He took a single in the last ball of the 16th to keep the strike for the 17th and final over and celebrated in style after scampering for a single in the next over dedicating the numbers to her new-born daughter.

The national team captain took just 13 deliveries to reach his next 50 and it was not the first time he was gesturing a baby to celebrate the triple figures. Not even two weeks ago, he had hammered 55-ball 107 against Bhutan to complete his first ever Twenty20 International century.

While there were people lauding his effort, few others made a mockery of his celebration saying came against a weaker opponent. But on Wednesday, the bowlers he played against were better than the Bhutanese he faced at the TU Stadium and all the shots he played at the gloomy Pokhara cricket stadium was display of pure class and equally aggressive shot making.

As years pass by in Nepali cricket, Gyanendra is still greeted with a barrage of criticisms for not performing because he has hardly taken the team across the finishing line. For an opener, such situations are very rare. And for Nepali cricket, his Wednesday's innings are also very rare.

While this rarity is hardly celebrated, Nepali cricket fans are also in oblivion about the three centuries he made this year and Nepal's quickest Twenty20 International half century he notched up in July. In a country obsessed with numbers and results, Gyanendra has already put in huge numbers in 2019. The results are now pending.

His year had begun by a very composed century against a strong Nepal Armed Police Force Club in the Prime Minister Cup where he played for Province 3. In July, he hammered Nepal's fastest half century (in 20 balls) against Malaysia in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Qualifier.

But as Nepal failed to qualify for the the Global Qualifier, his milestone was cornered. For Gyanendra, performance alone is not going to bring him bouquets. His performance and appreciation that could be attached to it are directly connected to the quantity, or even quality, of the progress that Nepali cricket does.

His Twenty20 International century (Nepal's second in the format) against Bhutan earned mixed reactions. He led the senior team for the first time at home during the South Asian Games and a poor fielding resulted in a six-wicket loss to Sri Lanka U-23 despite the team putting a decent 172 on the board.

With a silver medal all but out of grip as Nepal were left to play eventual champions Bangladesh, people waited more to make a decision over Gyanendra's century. As Nepal crashed to 111 all out in a 156-run chase against Bangladesh in the must-win match, he was always going to be the prime target of the fans.

Nepal finished third in the South Asian Games cricket but Nepali population would never settle with even the second-place finish. For Gyanendra's critics, his ton on Wednesday can only be validated if his franchise goes on to win the Pokhara Premier League. The control of the team – also of the national side – is now with Gyanendra himself. But despite putting numbers on board, he will continue to live his life on the knife edge.

Watch Gyanendra Malla's Century in PPL against Dhangadhi


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