Middle order mainstay Gyanendra Malla heads toward Bangladesh with a lot to prove, at least with numbers in the shorter version of the game.
The No 3 batsman’s cameo in Twenty20 format has often been unnoticed; a recent example was how skipper Paras Khadka and finisher Sharad Vesawkar were given all the credit when Nepal qualified for the World Twenty20 after their thrilling last-ball victory over Hong Kong.
Paras had made 46 in that match against Hong Kong and Sharad scored a crucial seven-ball 13 hammering 10 runs of the 11 needed in the last over including the winning run. Nepal celebrated and the whole nation was left ecstatic with the result. Paras was praised and so was Sharad, grabbing the World Twenty20 spot all the members were applauded.
As the celebration hang was over, people started gathering around the stats. Paras was always a champion and Sharad became the greatest finisher of Nepali cricket. The man most hit post-Qualifiers was Gyanendra whose statistics were scrutinized and deemed an under-performer considering the class he carries.
A simple mathematics can probably bring Gyanendra all the respect if he is to be instilled with a lot of confidence to prove his point. A respect that he has often been deprived of in the shorter version of the game.
Gyanendra made 30 runs from 27 balls in the Qualifiers’ World Cup decider against Hong Kong. Take his innings out and all Nepalese could have been thrown into the uncertainty of Bangladesh. Gyanendra once said: “The numbers is not a problem for me but considering the critics it could be. I have a role as a No 3 batsman and think I have justified it most of the times.”
Gyanendra was amongst the runs in Nepal’s two practice matches against the Netherlands and the UAE in the Emirates during their preparation tour managed by the ICC. He made 39 against the Netherlands – a joint top scorer in the match that Nepal lost by 44 runs. He followed that innings by a scintillating 35-ball 52 in the second game against the UAE which Nepal won by 31 runs.
Take him out of both the practice games and Nepali team could have been a subject to humiliation. Gyanendra has often been at the centre of criticism for not blasting in cricket’s youngest format but at No 3 he seems to be a mirror reflection of opener Subash Khakurel who has often been pampered for holding the innings at one end.
Subash has been successful most of the times as his defensive and occasional offensive approach to the game has eased the pressure on middle order. Gyanendra is a master of defense and offense who moulds his innings weighing-in the circumstance and if aggression is added, Nepal could get much from him.
Gyanendra collected some quick runs against Netherlands and UAE in warm-up games – a good sign for himself and the Nepali team. He has so far lived his Twenty20 career without a half century, the 26-year old is now firmly placed to get over the numbers’ jinx.