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Barring settled foreign names leaves tedious task for Everest Premier League

Adarsha Dhakal, Kathmandu 

Everest Premier League Pvt Ltd has turned screw on foreign players
competing on other domestic franchise Twenty20 leagues barring them from
competing in this season’s tournament scheduled for March 14-28.

Everest Premier League Twenty20 is among the top franchise tournament of
Nepal held at the Tribhuvan University Stadium where thousands of spectators throng
the ground creating a festive environment. On big match days or during the weekends,
the tournament draws huge audiences even outnumbering the turn outs for matches
in many Test playing countries.

After the advent of Nepal Premier League, now Everest Premier League,
two separate cities of the country host two other premier Twenty20 events.
Pokhara hosts the Pokhara Premier League and Dhangadhi plays host to Dhangadhi
Premier League. All the tournaments are also participated in by a limited
numbers of international recruits who so far have been making a lot of impact in
any team’s run to the title.

On Thursday, EPL Pvt Ltd announced through a press release that “all
foreign players contesting EPL will remain exclusive to the league and will
also have to produce a NOC from their respective national or state boards”.
It further added: “Any foreign player that has contested in any other
domestic league of Nepal in between EPL 2018 and EPL 2020 season will not be
allowed to contest in EPL.”

By other domestic league, it means Dhangadhi Premier League and Pokhara
Premier League which were held within that time frame. In a small market, where
team owners hardly risk splashing big cash on foreign players, almost same
international recruits have contested in all franchise Twenty20 competitions
also including the EPL.

Some of the Indian cricketers have been at the heart of their team’s
performance in all the franchise tournaments. Sunny Patel, Jaykishan Kolsawala
and Gaurav Tomar were the lynchpins in handing Lalitpur Patriots the title of
last season’s Everest Premier League. After that tournament, Sunny and
Kolsawala also lifted the DPL title for CYC Attariya.

While Kolsawala and Tomar played for Kathmandu Golden Warriors in the
PPL, Sunny was influencial in handing Chitwan Rhinos the title less than a week
ago in the same tournament. The Rhinos squad also included two other top
foreign recruits in the UAE captain Rohan Mustafa and former Hong Kong skipper
Babar Hayat.

Mustafa, who played for Dhangadhi Stars in DPL and Kathmandu Kings XI
in the EPL, was named the player-of-the-tourament in PPL. He had also achieved
that milestone in the second season of DPL while lifting the title for Sompal
Kami-led Team Chauraha Dhangadhi. Other Indian recruits like Puneet Mehra, Ravi
Inder Singh and Subodh Bhati have also made big name in Nepali domestic
Twenty20 competitions.

Raising the bar?

The recent decision from the EPL might have hit settled international
names hard but the move is not negative in entirety. The organisers can make
their rule and what EPL has done can be practised by other league organisers as
well. The certainty is that the decision will push the owners to loosen up
their purse for foreign recruits as the tournament organisers have already
directed the franchises to have at least one player from Test playing nation.

With the settled nomadic names, who come at convenient price along with
performance all because of their affinity to Nepal and its fans, now kept at
bay, it will definitely leave the organisers and franchises to once again prove
that EPL is the cut above the rest. EPL franchises have already managed to bring
in big names.

Pokhara Rhinos, owned by J4 Sports – a subsidiary of Shankar Group –
had already managed to rope in South African juggernaut Richard Levi last
season. Levi had exhibited his power hitting prowess at the TU ground although
his team finished at the bottom of the tournament.

The previous season also saw Biratnagar Warriors recruiting former
South African and present Dutch international Roelof van der Merwe along with
his compatriot Paul van Meekeren. Other big names included Irish internationals
Kevin O’Brien (Kings XI) and Paul Stirling (Chitwan Tigers) along with Dutch
star Ryan ten Doeschate (Bhairahawa Gladiators).

Although it required experience rather than big name in winning the EPL
title last season with Sunny, Kolsawala and Tomar doing it, the big names would
definitely still spice up the tournament and raise the level of competition.
EPL has already seen that in its last competition where the domestic cricketers
had to toil hard to leave an impact.

A watershed decision

In another big move, EPL Pvt Ltd have come up with the provision of
trading players which will be practiced for the first time in Nepal and paves
way for professionalism, provided it succeeds. Nothing like this has been
practiced in Nepali sport before.

Nepal’s premier football competition – Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division
League – introduced a peculiar transfer provision this season where a club can
register up to 48 number of players until the last day of the league but it has
no window. Any club can bring in or trade players from other club informing the
league committee 48 hours prior to their next game.

EPL has introduced a trade window which began from Thursday (January 2)
itself and runs until January 9. Only the 18 Category ‘A’ players – who are
either playing or have played for the national team – can be traded by the
franchises with the base price of Rs 200,000. Any amount above the base price
will see 60 percent going to the player and 40 percent to the selling franchise.
The trade, however, is not mandatory.

Irrespective of the success or failure in the
trade window, EPL has at least made a beginning which will take a step forward
in making franchise cricket further professional. 

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