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Mental preparation key for Spain tour, says captain Gyanendra

After a triumphant Twenty20 International Series campaign at home, Nepal skipper Gyanendra Malla said his side is up for the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 Tri-Series challenge that awaits them in Spain.

Nepal are taking Namibia and Scotland from the third week of July at the Desert Springs Cricket Ground in Almeria, an alternate venue recently awarded One Day International venue by the International Cricket Council.

Nepal are coming off a confidence-boosting T20I Series against the Netherlands and Malaysia. But in a territory not known for cricket, all Gyanendra can assume was of a European soil offering pace and bounce.

“The pitches in Europe offer extra bounce and swings. We will be prepared to play the ball as late as we can and try not to commit early,” Gyanendra Malla said when asked about their game-plan for the series.

The Spanish venue belongs to Desert Springs Resort, an isolated holiday destination miles away from English cricket culture. However, England national team cricketers have also been setting up their camp at the private facility.

The Nepali team captain is looking for his side to get acclimatised to the condition to avoid any upcoming surprises. “Acclimatising to the condition is important but at the same time, I believe, our mental preparation is the key if we see ourselves performing there,” he added.

Nepal are beginning their closed-camp training from Monday.

With less than a month remaining for the European assignment, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) is running out of time to finalise a possible preparation tour. Nepal can travel early to Spain but its next to impossible to get quality opponents for practice matches there.

“We have been exploring all the options. The initial plan is to go to Qatar where we might get good opponents. If that is not materialised, an early camp in Spain to get used to the local conditions could be an option,” Cricket Association of Nepal Cricket Manager Binod Das said.

With COVID-19 still a deciding factor in Associate cricket, none of the three participating teams are certain of getting the game next month. “The first thing is, the Series has to be finalised. Namibia have seen sharp rise of cases, so its all about wait and watch for all of us, former national team captain Das added.

Mediocre in Europe

While Scotland drew two-match ODI series against the Dutch recently, Namibia whitewashed Uganda in three-match Twenty20 International series in April.

Nonetheless, its Nepal’s own performance in Europe that their newly recruited coach Dave Whatmore should be wary of.

Nepal have a mediocre winning ratio in the old continent since 2010. Nepal won 35.71% of matches in Europe since 2010. The winning percentage involves all form of international matches. Nepal won 15 out of 42 matches they have played. Four matches ended up without yielding a result.

Nepal coach Dave Whatmore will be in his first 50-over assignment in Spain.

The number goes up to 44.44% wins when it comes down to 50-over format. Nepal have enjoyed 12 wins out of 27 matches they played in this format. It also includes the historical first-ever ODI win against the Netherlands in August, 2018. One match has ended up without a result.

They have retained a comparatively better number in a longer format when it comes to chasing. Nepal’s win percentage 46.66 in Europe while chasing, 5.66% better than their record while batting first.

Where does Nepal stand in League 2 ?

Currently placed sixth in League 2, Nepal had defeated USA twice and lost to Oman in same number of matches in their first Tri-Series of the event at TU International cricket ground. While table toppers Oman have already played 10 matches and USA 12, Nepal have managed just four.

They were supposed to travel to Oman in March this year but the Series was postponed owing to financial burden that could have been caused by COVID-19 protocol in the gulf nation.

The top three teams from the seven-nation League 2 will advance to the Global Qualifier of the 2023 World Cup. The bottom four will wait for another chance through the play-offs to be joined by two teams from Cricket World Cup Challenge League.

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