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As an ODI nation, Nepali cricket cannot afford to get laid back

Corona Virus has been catastrophic in every means, economically or socially. As the world is gripped by this pandemic that originated from China, global sports is into its lowest ebb, although competitions have resumed, but only behind closed doors. COVID-19, no doubt, has ripped off the colours that competitive sports offer.

Not only the athletes across the world, sports lovers have also been affected mentally as their life now lacks the excitement received from sports very often. The big nations are gradually finding their feet with restrictions but the smaller nations have been mostly bearing the brunt.

Nepali cricket fans have been at the receiving end as multiple cricketing events, including the all-important ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, are postponed due to the ongoing health crisis. While the global cricketing event ICC T20 World Cup 2020 is closed to getting postponed, the Indian Premier League is mulling every ways to get a go ahead as the Board of Control for Cricket in India cannot afford to lose billions, especially when the sports world is certain to hit by recession. 

With every sector being hit hard by COVID-19, Nepali cricket, currently only dependent on funds it receives through the International Cricket Council, is certain to go through finance crunch resulting in less cricket activities and ultimately impacting on-field performance.

Bilateral ODI Series, now, seems to be a thing from the past

After hosting the USA and Oman in an ODI Tri-Series under their League-2 campaign, the performance at their own back yard had provided Nepal a glimpse of how the road to 2023 World Cup would for them. The ACC Twenty20 Asia Cup Eastern Region Qualifier in Thailand was the next stop in March but from there on cricket has hit a roadblock.

As Nepal were about to finish their disastrous Twenty20 Qualifier in Thailand where they even failed to make top two finish for a berth in the Asian Qualifier, Nepal government’s decision to limit public gathering forced Everest Premier League organisers to indefinitely postpone the country’s biggest Twenty20 league. COVID-19 during that time had begun to hit Europe hard. 

The postponement was a big blow back home as the fans this time were assured of an action-packed tournament involving global cricketing stars – the biggest name being Universe Boss Chris Gayle. The Jamaican would have been the toast of Nepali cricket in quite a while along with compatriots Kesrick Williams, Dwayne Smith with Kiwi Corey Anderson topping the Caribbean flavor.

But it all ended up as if nothing was planned upon. The unexpected world development not only ruined the grandest and biggest Twenty20 event of Nepal but also jeopardized a scheduled participation in League 2. Had there been no COVID-19 catastrophe, Nepal this year were scheduled to complete 16 One Day Internationals in League 2 that would have begun with a tour of Namibia in April.

Now, not even the governing body of world cricket has the slimmest idea of how League 2 is going to pan out once it resumes.

Let alone the international competitions, the pandemic has swept away three months of calendar as claimed by a revived Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). With a host of strict health protocols yet to come into effect, the cricket governing body might have to go through big challenges to get the game going at home.

What next?

Having watched England host the West Indies under strict health protocols, cricketing nations across the world now have the idea what the new normal is going to be if competitive cricket is to begin at the earliest. As many nations are busy in tackling the pandemic and are running out of cash reserves, economy of the powerful countries too is crashing. As international cricket is largely dependent on fixtures involving India, England or Australia in receiving fund, the financial crunch has begun to hit hard.

The first and foremost, cricketers should be assembled for training

CAN now requires to act wisely in order to lift Nepali cricket from gloom. While the safety of domestic players is paramount, CAN cannot afford to lace their hands without providing them exposures at home. The organization of domestic tournaments will enable the cricketers to stretch themselves before any international participation.

The domestic tournaments should be conducted implement strict social distancing rules. The cricketers, to their part, would require an ultra-disciplined approach to make sure they don’t give in while taking on big teams in near future. But the first move needs to come from the government itself. With lock down restrictions easing, the government should give nod to the cricket governing body to at least assemble cricketers to being their training as soon as possible. Nepal is now a One Day International nation and the country’s cricket is not in the position to get laid back for too long.

BY ANURAG SUBEDI

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