Nepali cricketers lauded the International Cricket Council (ICC) decision of expanding global events with inclusion of more teams as the youngest One Day International nation eagerly waits to rub shoulders with game’s giants.
Nepal’s last and only participation in the global showpiece of cricket was the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh where they impressed the cricketing world but could not make it through to the second round where big teams awaited.
The June 1 decision of ICC to expand 50-over World Cup to 14 teams and Twenty20 World Cup to 20 teams in its next cycle of Future Tours Programme (2023-2031) now offers golden opportunity to Associate teams like Nepal to have a shot against big teams.
Nepal captain Gyanendra Malla, who led the country to its first ever international title after nine years at home through the Tri-Nation Series two months ago, said chances for more teams does not mean the cricket governing body was given the opportunity to get complacent.
“Our focus should be to qualify for these events by securing 12th or 13th spots. We should build a proper plan on and off the field to ensure that we will be there to beat teams, not just to make the numbers,” Gyanendra said.
ICC has refrained from making any decision over the revival of the Inter-Continental Cup — a four-day First Class cricket competition among the Associates.
Nepal cricket’s global face Sandeep Lamichhane, however, put the onus on the governing body to upgrade the domestic infrastructure and introduce red-ball cricket for a long-term development of the game.
“People know Nepal play cricket, but they still don’t know the calibre and quality we possess. This will give us a fair chance to showcase it on the global stage,” said Sandeep who now has 101 appearances in Twenty20 cricket and has taken 138 wickets.
The 2014 World Twenty20 participation was a watershed moment in Nepali cricket as the game began finding its roots all over the country. Impressing the world in Bangladesh with his leadership was Paras Khadka who believed the new ICC decision can change the dimension of Nepali cricket.
“Participating in World Cup brings a different energy on players and country as a whole, but the participation alone is not enough. We need to have a concrete plan for the next 10 years so we can reach our next goal, i.e playing Test cricket”, he said.
ICC has opted to follow the format that was used in 2003 for the 2027 and 2031 ODI World Cup. The participating 14 teams will be divided into two groups with the top three teams from each group making it to the Super Six.
The four best teams from Super Six will make it to the semi-final followed by the final. Four Twenty20 World Cups (2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030) have been scheduled for the next cycle.
The Twenty20 World Cup will see 20 teams separated into four groups with the top two from each groups making into the Super Eight Stage.
Sharad Vesawkar, who has been an integral part of the team in Nepal’s run up to the World Twenty20 and gaining ODI status, welcomed the ICC move.
“Its a welcoming decision for Associate countries specially for teams like us who don’t have Test status and opportunites to play at the world stage are limited. We have to make a 10-year vision to work on how we can compete at the global stage. All stakeholders now need to come together and work at the earliest,” said Vesawkar.
Nepal’s pace bowling spearhead, Sompal Kami, believed there was a realistic chance for Nepal to compete in all six World Cups, both the T20I and ODI provided the country leaves no stone unturned as a professional cricket administration.
“The current performance might prevent us from qualifying from all events but we need to prepare the team by playing maximum number of matches against quality opponents, inside and outside the country,” the fast bowler said.
Nepal are scheduled to play in the Global Qualifiers for 2022 World Twenty20 with 16 teams vying for the only four available slots. The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be held in Australia.
BY ROSHAN DHITAL