When Nepal were setting off for Sri Lanka for a 15-day preparation tour, coach Pubudu Dassanayake had three major objectives in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in Singapore.
The first objective was to defeat Afghanistan but that was severely murdered by his impatient late middle order and tail enders leading to a three-run heart breaking loss against their Associate archrivals.
Dassanayake must be happy to go so close against Afghanistan. Why would he not be? The Afghans have been outplaying Nepal since they emerged as one of the leading Associate nations since 2006 before Saturday’s match hinted that Nepal are going to beat them any time.
“We can say that our team has developed into top Associate level. Now it is about getting better in these situations,” Dassanayake told www.cricketingnepal.com.
The coach’s third objective could only be fulfilled if only Nepali boys comply the second – giving a better display against the U-23 teams from India and Pakistan. His third objective was to get the best out from the experience of playing against tough teams in Singapore from the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 and World Cup Qualifiers.
ACC Emerging Teams Cup is actually an assignment for Dassanayake and his troops and after getting 3.5 GPA out of 4 in the first assignment, Nepal will begin the second from Tuesday when they take on mighty Indian U-23 team at the same grounds where they lost to Afghanistan.
“Next two games (against India and Pakistan) are all about achieving our plans. This will help our preparations for Qualifiers,” Dassanayake told us from Singapore. The GPA for Nepal’s second assignment could only be totaled after the match against Pakistan on Wednesday and the distinction could only be achieved through an aggregate of the third after the Twenty20 Qualifiers in November and 50-over World Cup Qualifiers in January.
But all eyes will remain focused on Tuesday’s match against India U-23 team which is studded with experienced players whom we have seen on our TV set during the lucrative Indian Premier League.
Beware from No 1 to 11
The Indian batting order begins with a solid pair of Lokesh Rahul, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Unmukt Chand – an opener for Delhi Daredevils. Unmukt is a man of his composure – an example he set when his unbeaten century crushed Australia in the final of the 2012 ICC U-19 World Cup.
Nepali bowlers will still have to bowl their heart out even if they get rid of the two openers as the long Indian batting line up also consists of Surya Kumar Yadav, Baba Aparajit, Ashok Menaria and Manprit Juneja. Nepal batsmen will also face hard time at the crease when they bat against the seer pace from Sandeep Sharma, Sandeep Warrier and Jasprit Bumrah.
Who is going to be the savior?
The answer is difficult batting conditions and spinners. The SCC pitch is not an easy one to bat on so Nepali spinners’ performance might be crucial in salvaging the reputation. Nepal’s seam attack is looking good though Chandra Saud is a doubt with Avinash Karn a 100 per cent starter. Dassanayake’s dilemma would be to use whether an extra seamer or extra spinner.
Onus on top and middle order
After the chaos in the late and lower middle order during Afghanistan loss, the onus will definitely be on the top and middle order to do all they can. Openers Subash Khakurel and Anil Mandal need to bat long and Gyanendra Malla along with Sharad Vesawkar have to be amongst the runs.
Paras is always a performer in difficult conditions and even he doesn’t perform on Saturday, other batsmen will get a lot to ponder on their abilities and mental toughness. Binod Bhandari was surprisingly kept out against Afghanistan and no one knows why he was not there but Nepal might need a stroke player like him in such conditions.