After more than half-a-decade of abandonment, Nepal is set to revive the National Cricket Academy (NCA) but questions linger on how a genuine feeder for national teams survives soon after it is reincarnated.
The central academy, a brainchild of former national team coach Pubudu Dassanayake, had formally opened back in 2013 but was the first victim of poor governance of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) and eventually its suspension.
Initially reduced to a sign board, NCA activities came to a complete halt in 2015. The cricket governing body now is working on to bring the NCA back again.
Housed as an office at previously stationed gymnasium at TU grounds, NCA was already operational providing weekly training to school kids and conducting camps at different time frame in the premises of Nepal’s only international standard cricket stadium .
It had also expanded with the affiliation to other few academies in Dhangadhi and Bhairahawa.
However, poor governance resulted by infighting within the CAN and later on, its suspension in 2016, NCA vanished from Nepali cricket.
As CAN is in its third year of partial suspension from the International Cricket Council (ICC), it has formed a committee to re-establish NCA. Durga Raj Pathak, coordinator of the committee formed by CAN, said an operational NCA was on the cards.
“It’s a gradual upgrading process, but we are trying to get the things underway after monsoon if COVID-19 is under control in Nepal,” he said.
How does NCA serve ?
The ultimate target of a central academy of any sports discipline around the world is to prepare players who would go on to represent the country in future. NCA grooms or nurtures sets of junior players and build around those who have represented Nepal in different age groups.
The academy is also expected to act as finishing schools to prepare and groom the players in the art of batting, bowling and fielding under the panel of national coaches.
Usually, the national academy invites world-class players in all departments of the game to give coaching and lectures to the aspiring players.
Almost every top-ranked cricketing countries set up the national academy for furnishing the players before showcasing them at international level.
Numerous international stars in Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson, Brett Lee came into their national team set ups from academies of their respective cricket boards.
Pathak said CAN is committed in focusing on the grassroots cricket in a systematic way. “The first attempt was exemplary but it lacked proper guidelines and vision. We will re-correct it and come up with a proper system to run the academy,” Pathak added.
To be precise, Nepal’s cricket for a long time has both revolved an evolved around Tribhuvan University Stadium. NCA, in its womb, began from the same facility which now has one indoor facility and four practice pitches.
CAN said it will be re-starting the academy at the same facility before adding infrastructres. “It’s important to be realistic. We will get started from TU and keep an eye on other separate space or setting up proper infrastructure at the Mulpani Cricket Ground,” Pathak said.
But Mupani Cricket Ground, either upper or lower, can only offer physical training for players. CAN’s decision to host two national tournaments recently had actually backfired owing to its poor ground condition and pitches.
“We have plans to build up proper set-up including gym and hostel but it takes around five years to materialise them perfectly,” added Pathak.
Coaches and other staffs
For the last one decade, particularly after the country’s participation in the ICC World Twenty20, Nepal has not fallen short in having fair number of cricketers.
In absence of the cricket governing body, private academies took the torch of producing cricketers. A majority of U-19 and U-16 cricketers today are the product of those private academies.
While they learnt cricket on those academies, Nepal have not conducted coaching courses for a long time. CAN recently interviewed 24 coaches for seven provinces but the intitial number itself is not satisfactory.
Those coaches will go on to represent their provinces and will have a bigger picture to dictate. But NCA, following its impending expansion, might require bigger number of coaches to facilitate the aspirants.
CAN might make do with what they have for the time being but if NCA is to be run properly and in a systematic way, it first needs to work on producing a fair number of coaching staffs.
Funding comes up as biggest challenge
Funding is the biggest challenge to operate NCA at a national scale. CAN’s development budget provided by the ICC, private sector’s sponsorship and government funding are three major sources of funding.
ICC provides development funding to all its member to invest and improve grassroots cricket. Today, Ireland and Afghanistan have climbed up the ranks because they made a proper use of development funding.
Unless the funds from the ICC allocated for the grassroots cricket are not properly channelised, NCA will continue to suffer throughout its existence.
Off late, cricket has drawn a huge amount of interest from corporate sectors. Its a plus point for CAN. Provided CAN manages to lure sponsors for age group cricket, the overall NCA programme can survive without any trouble.
It will not be wrong if it is said CAN is blessed to have private academies in existence before it establishes the central academy. The academies have been taking the responsibility of producing national cricketers. Its a job half done for CAN.
If NCA wishes to extend its wings, tying up with these academies is the best option.
Cricketingnepal understands CAN is currently planning to categories private cricket academies and provide them with license and authority as per the available facilities. But before grading them, a proper study is required on how professional the academies have been.
Nepal’s current head coach Dave Whatmore was the director of National Cricket Academy, India, from 2008 to 2012. His presence in Nepal could be a boon for NCA in its proper functioning.