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In Nepal’s top sports award, cricket doesn’t have a single nomination in 15 years

Nepal’s Pulsar Sports Award has a legacy. Given by the umbrella association of Nepali sports journalists, Nepal Sports Journalists Forum; the award has now turned into a festival. The recognition itself is a major boost for athletes in the country. The winners have become inspiration for many.

Since it started back in 2000 from a small room in a restaurant in Kathmandu, the Award has grown bigger and bigger. The 2021 edition, which has been pushed for seven months due to Corona Virus pandemic, is going to be a semi-virtual show on January 12.

Had there been no COVID-19, the Award could have been done and dusted by now following a grand ceremony in an auditorium. Such has been its demand and grandeur.

The COVID-19 situation, however, has certainly hyped the Award more as bigger amount of votes have been cast for its People’s Choice Award, one of the categories where the winner is decided by public.

Cricket has been one of the dominant disciplines in the Award as former national men’s team skipper Paras Khadka himself has won it four times. No other player has won the award more than three times.

Paras received his fourth player of the year award in 2018

Over the years, another former captain Binod Das, coaches Jagat Tamatta, Roy Luke Dias and Pubudu Dassanayake, Sharad Vesawkar, Mehboob Alam, U-19 captain Prithu Baskota, women’s team skippers Rubina Chhetri and Nary Thapa among others have all won this prestigious award.

A quartet of Nepali cricketers had won the Award when Paras got hands to his fourth trophy in 2018 after leading the national team to One Day International Status glory.

Leg spinning star Sandeep Lamichhane took the youth player of the year honour, Tamatta was coach of the year and Karan KC took the Special Award for his miraculous innings against Canada during the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia.

But for the first time in 15 years, the Award doesn’t have a single nomination from cricket, be it men’s or women’s. Cricket has regular featured, at least in the nominations, since NSJF started the trend of naming five nominations for major categories – male, female, youth and coach in 2005.

Why has cricket missed out?

During the year considered for award 2019-20, Nepal hosted the 13th South Asian Games which turned out to be their best ever in history. Nepal claimed 51 gold medals in the South Asian Games. Gold in international tournament is one of the strong prerogatives to get lined-up for the awards.

Nepal’s gold medal rush was made strong by a strong performance in martial arts – wushu, taekwondo and karate along with four-gold performance from teen swimming sensation Gaurika Singh.

A dawn of Gaurika era began for Nepali sports after she became the most successful athlete at the age of 17 winning four gold medals at the South Asian Games.

When NSJF announced the nominees in the four major categories on Tuesday, it was completely dominated by SA Games gold medallits. The nominees for coaches belonged to the team that claimed gold in the regional meet.

Two People’s Choice Award nominees, women’s volleyball and basketball captains Aruna Shahi and Sadina Shrestha respectively along with footballer Sabitra Bhandari, are the only non-gold winners considered for nominations. Aruna and Sadina had had led Nepal to their first ever SA Games final in their disciplines.

Who could have deserved nomination from cricket?

The Nepali calendar year for cricket was highlighted by three major performances, two of them are world records that are hard to be broken. It began with Anjali Chand returning the unbelievable figures of 6-0 from 2.1 overs against Maldives during the 13th South Asian Games wommen’s cricket in Pokhara.

Anjali’s record stands as the best bowling figures in women’s international cricket but it also beats the overall record in the game. Deepak Chahar has the best Twenty20 International bowling figures of 6-8 from 3.2 overs against Bangladesh.

Anjali Chand’s figures of 6-0 is out of imagination for many bowlers.

Another world record came during the Nepal-Oman-USA Tri-Series in February 9 when Kushal Malla scored a 51-ball 50 to become One Day International’s youngest cricketer to score a half century. Kushal was 15 years and 346 days when he set the record eclipsing compatriot Rohit Kumar Paudel.

Three days later Sandeep Lamichhane was on history books again when he took 6-16 to return second best ODI figures as an Associate bowler. His performance has helped Nepal bundle out USA for just 35 runs – the joint-lowest total in ODI history.

The year for cricket might have been highlighted by world records but its gold in the regional meet that weighed heavier in Sports Award.

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