A positive body language and comparatively better athleticism in the field — that is what Chitwan Rhinos have been all about in the Women’s Champions League.
Watch the first few overs when Rhinos, under the youngest marquee Indu Barma in Nepal’s first ever women’s franchise league, take to the field. The only audible sound at the empty TU Stadium is the loud conversation between themselves. And as they strike with the ball, the official anthem increases the decibel.
The catchiest official anthem of the tournament says:
“Ma bhanchu Chitwan Timi Bhana Rhinos
Sundar Yo Khel Kheldai Garau Haami Ramailo”
If translated to English the song says:
“Let me say Chitwan and you say Rhinos.
Lets get groovy playing this beautiful game.”
The English translation reads lame and it’s the rhyming in Nepali language that catches everyone’s attention. “Its very catchy,” says national cricket team skipper Paras Khadka who recently resigned from his captaincy but is one of the organisers of the WCL organised by Queen’s Event Management.
Paras led the Rhinos in the final of the Pokhara Premier League, organised by the same event management company, and the anthem was one of the most reverberating sound in the best tourist destination of Nepal.
“I still remember when we played against Kathmandu Royals (in the Qualifier of the Pokhara Premier League) and supporters from our opponents would scream ‘Rhinos’ to catch the rhyming whenever it was played,” he said.
Rhinos ended up winning the Qualifier to seal the final spot but lost to eventual champions Pokhara Paltan. Pokhara Premier League is the third franchise men’s Twenty20 competition that Nepal now gets every year. This happened at the time when the country’s cricket governing body remained suspended.
During this period of over three years of suspension, preceded by an already paralysed state of the Cricket Association of Nepal, it was women’s cricket that has mostly bore the brunt. While the international calendar doesn’t offer much for non-Test playing nations, conditions have been even bleak at home.
As the men cricketers were involved in a busy schedule of the ICC World Cricket League Championship from 2015 and concurrently got exposed against international cricketers at home in franchise leagues, women waited for the government fixtures.
In 2016, Nepali women participated in the ICC World Twenty20 Global Qualifying Series for Asia in Hong Kong, the first time they had gone outside Nepal for an international tournament in two years. They then had to wait for another one year for their next international tournament. Exposure has eluded the women.
The absence of frequent tournament has taken toll on their physical fitness. Two of the teams – Lalitpur Falcons and Pokhara Paltan — that crashed out early from the Women’s Champions League, paid the price for poor fielding. As tournaments were not available, most of the players have gained weight, directly affecting their game.
The women, however, see Women’s Champions League as a beginning to revive their domestic cricket because it is exactly modeled the way other men’s franchise tournaments have been. Drafted ahead of the tournament, the women played in a colourful set up with almost every franchise having an official anthem.
The champions of the tournament carried a cash purse of Rs 700,000 and the runners-up got Rs 300,000 – the best cash purses ever given in any women’s sporting event of the country. The player-of-the-series earned a scooter and additional purse of Rs 50,000.
From nothing, the Women’s Champions League has taken them to a journey which can pave a road to professionalism. This should also give a food for thought to the people at cricket governing body which recently has the international suspension lifted.
“It was really wonderful when I came here to play the first match. The set up looks beautiful and the level of competition is also differet,” said Nepal’s former national team captain Nary Thapa who skippered Falcons – the bottom team of the tournament.
The bright spot of the tournament was how other three teams who progressed from the league fared. Chitwan Rhinos, Biratangar Titans and Kat Queens Kathmandu were the three teams making it through owing to their body language and enthusiasm in the field. It is expected to benefit the feeding system of the national team.
“We always knew that senior players were going to perform. But its the performance shown by the youngsters is something that we have to think of. We never expected them to match the performance of the seniors. It shows that the future is bright for us,” said Barma.
Chhumbi Lama, Managing Director of tournament organisers Queen’s Event Management Pvt Ltd, now sees a big challenge ahead. “It’s a good beginning because the concept of franchise for women’s cricket is new. The excitement of corporate sector for women’s cricket is a very positive sign for the game. The challenge is now how we make it big next year and drag audience to the ground,” said Lama.
Kat Queens and Nepali national women’s team skipper Rubina Chhetri urged the cricket governing body to make the most of the momentum that Women’s Champions League picked up. “Keeping aside the National Games women’s cricket or the Prime Minister Cup, the domestic cricket has nothing to offer to us,” said Rubina.
“The attention received by this tournament and response from corporate is a positive aspect for us. With the cricket governing body reinstated, it would be nice if we get more tournaments. It doesn’t mean CAN has to organise a lot of tournaments on their own. But if all seven provincial governing bodies hold at least one tournament, we can definitely be a good force in our region,” said Rubina.