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Hard times and return of Dassanayake

After handing Nepal a place in the ICC World Twenty20, national cricket team coach Pubudu Dassanayake was probably dealt in a disgraceful way. At a time when Dassanayake became one of the most popular and respected figures in the country, he was also a subject to several attempts of dethroning him from a post that probably earned Nepal a big reputation in the globe.

Here we are in an attempt to give you a picture of how Nepali cricket plunged into chaos soon after the ecstasy of a historical achievement.

March 20-24: World Twenty20?? Not an achievement for CAN

As Nepal earned their first ever victory over archrivals Afghanistan in the ICC World Twenty20 on March 20, Dassanayake had just 10 days left for his contract to expire. CAN, on the other hand, remained indifferent to give him an extension but extensive pressure from media forced them to oblige to the situation. He was finally given a one-year extension with increased payment on March 24.

April 11: A revolt for the good but chaos prevailed

National cricketers were the history makers, especially coming from a small country with political instability where cricket was just like other sports discipline which rarely got the state’s attention. They were in the World Cup not because they practiced in the four practice nets at the TU Stadium but due to Dasanayake’s plans to provide them international exposure.

Skipper Paras Khadka and his team anticipated things were not going to change and staged a revolt demanding a proper system in a public outburst. They also wanted investigation into the alleged embezzlement of millions of rupees wasted in a sorry-looking Mulpani Cricket Stadium apart from demanding proper facilities and listing several other issues.

April 16-29: Blamed, humiliated and teary-eyed Shakti

Although the CAN managed to bring players into talks for agreement, the relations had already been intensified. The country’s corruption watchdog Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) began a probe on CAN’s financial irregularities and Dassanayake along with cricketers were to bear the brunt. Dassanayake was partly blamed for the national team’s revolt and the cricketers’ preparation for May’s ACC Premier League was ignored.

Backtracking from its previous decision, CAN handled Dassanayake in the worst possible way by handing him a three-month extension hours before the team left Malaysia for the Premier League on April 29. With gloomy faces, the cricketers prepared for their departure and veteran spinner Shakti Gauchan broke down saying: “We are just leaving for Malaysia to prevent an ACC sanction. Nepali cricket will see its worst if he (Dassanayake) leaves.

May 20: Division exposed in board, liars go public

Nepal’s first ever Premier League event, Ncell NPL, ran into controversy but it exposed a clear cut division in the cricket governing body. While a set of governing council formed for NPL resigned, and decided to take their hands out of the tournament CAN president Tanka Aangbuhang slammed the decision saying no one can stop the event. It prompted the other panel to come out publicly alleging Aangbuhang of autocracy and announcing to oust the president with a vote of no confidence.

During the same press conference on May 20, CAN members came up with a lie that seemed very light for them. “The decision to hand Dassanayake an extension was not approved by the board,” CAN general secretary Ashok Nath Pyakuryal had said. CAN had also criticised Dassanayake for supporting NPL. Dassanayake divided players for six different franchises of the NPL.

June 4: A regular-but-bitter holiday

Dassanayake always leaves for almost a one-month holiday to his hometown Canada when monsoon is on the loose in Nepal during June/July. But on June 4, he left for a holiday that could have been a permanent vacation. His several attempts to build contact with CAN members failed. His contract, that was to expire on June 30, was ignored and his mails directly sent to the trash. With heavy heart, Dassanayake left for Canada rejecting an extension that was proposed from back-door by Aangbuhang panel.

June 8: Corruption charges, Dassanayake at the distance

While Dassanayake was awaiting a green signal from CAN, the ongoing investigation of the CIAA came up with a report that suggested there were massive irregularities in the construction of cricket governing body. The CIAA not only filed graft charges against some of the top brass including Aangbuhang, Pyakuryal and treasurer Raju Babu Shrestha but also deemed the entire 31-member committee ineligible to run cricket. It also recommended the government, Youth and Sports Ministry and NSC to form a new committee. Dassanayake’s return was now a distant topic with CAN in disarray. The tainted officials finally stepped aside temporarily.

June 10: Corruption takes toll on cricket

Although not proved officially, the corruption took a huge toll on Nepali cricket when ICC named Uganda as the hosts for the ICC World Cricket League Division-III – a tournament that was initially proposed to Nepal. Despite CAN members confirming ICC’s directive to prove their readiness for the tournament, which was before the CIAA decision, the world cricket governing body handed the hosting rights to Uganda, meaning Nepal now had to land in an unknown territory for a tournament that could determine the country’s next three years.

June 19: The revelation

It was after the departure of Dassanayake that a bitter fact was revealed that exposed the ineligibility of CAN and its negligence. Though there were many other untold reasons, Pyakuryal had been saying that the board was not in the financial position to afford Dassanayake’s salary. The fact was later proved by a report on popular cricket-based website cricinfo. The website wrote that CAN was about to get a warning from the ICC in its Annual Conference for not being able to recruit a full-time administrator (Chief Executive Officer) as directed by it. Their negligence had already failed them to get hold of the funds from the ICC and ACC for several months.

June 30-July 18: CAN’s no, Paras explodes, Govt to the rescue

With its bank account not even exceeding Rs 50k, CAN issued a press release saying it is not extending Dassanayake’s contract that infuriated millions of cricket fans in Nepal and abroad. CAN was a subject of castigation with social networking sites denouncing its inability. Paras was the quickest to react with a bombshell. He announced through his facebook account that he would quit playing cricket for Nepal if Dassanayake is not brought back. The next day, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat tweeted that government will support if CAN has become bankrupt. The same day a ministry level meeting decided to extend Dassanayake’s contract. On July 18, cabinet endorsed the decision from the Ministry.

July 25-Aug 28: Uncertainty prevails but Dassanayake back for players’ welcome

Despite the government extending Dassanayake’s contract at its own expense, the coach was still apprehensive about the circumstances that had been creating in Nepal. While the Sports Ministry was at the loggerheads preparing for a new cricket board, CAN said it was unaware about the extension given to Dassanayake. CAN neither tried to establish contact with Dassanayake nor the Ministry decided to bring it into one single umbrella. But the pressure on the Ministry from players regarding Dassanayake’s return maintained and he finally returned on August 28. In an emotional scene Dassanayake embraced the national cricketers who had turned up to welcome him at the airport.

Aug 28-Sept 1: The saga ends

On the day Dassanayake landed in Kathmandu, MoYS and CAN sat together for a meeting to settle the issues regarding his contract. Following the meeting CAN sent a Terms of Reference to ministry over the issue, the cricket governing body saying it is positive towards the move. Dassanayake finally signed a contract agreement with the government on September 1 and the cricket governing body handed over the cricketers to Dassanayake at the TU stadium for the Asian Games before its board meeting which will be followed by an official agreement with the coach.

But the fear remains

Though the issue over Dassanayake’s contract has finally come to an end, it depends how things start to build up after he once again takes over the reign of Nepali cricket. When the ministry and Dassanayake sat for talks on August 29, the coach not only discussed about his contract. Projecting a bigger scene, he discussed about the facilities for the national players, environment for better preparation and a solid base for the future. The government was applauded for bringing back Dassanayake and announcing a budget of 200 million rupees for the construction of Mulpani Cricket Stadium but it depends how time shapes up. The cricketers fought for all the things that have been ignored for long and not taken heed of. We could go back to square one.

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