Manmohan Memorial (MM) National One-Day Cricket Tournament sprung organically. In the absence of the Cricket Association of Nepal, it was among the only two 50-over tournaments that Nepal annually hosted — the other being the Prime Minister Cup.
Organised by Manmohan Memorial Foundation, MM Cup also included Malaysia XI in its last edition, thus becoming the only 50-over tournament of the country to include foreign team. While the local cricketers have benefited by the exposure of playing against country’s top notch cricketers, MM Cup have managed to provide a sustaining competition amidst the wave of Twenty20 events.
Biplav Ghosh, the man behind the tournament, took a daunting task of shifting the event to Kathmandu from Inaruwa for the third edition. However, technical issues followed by the second wave of COVID-19 forced the postponement of the tournament.
In this interview with Ghosh, Roshan Dhital talks about the difficulties and prospects the MM Cup holds apart from the current plight of Province 1 cricket. EXCERPTS:
Inaruwa is not among the city that can offer full faclilitated cricket venue or perfect accommodations. How the concept of organising such a big tournament came forward?
It’s all about passion, and result of selfless thinking. We put the concept of developing the cricketing structure ahead of business. That was how we were able to initiate a 50-over competition at a national scale.
Had we focused on financial benefits, we would have organised a Twenty-20 competition, but we never wanted to take that route. We were eager to develop cricket, establishing our own locality and at the same time put our capacity to the test.
Honestly speaking, we were participating in the PM Cup as Province 1 but the facilities provided disappointed us. So, we decided to organize such a tournament in our own backyard with better off-the-field facilities.
It’s very difficult to manage everything here as we fall behind in terms of facility and resource. We had to convert the open field into a temporary cricket ground with turf wicket.
There’s one saying, a farmer can yield the product in the sand with his hard work. So, we worked relentlessly and so far been very proud of the way our team materialised the plans. We are very much focused on giving continuity to the tournament with upgraded facilities and better playing standard every year.
What were the challenges initially, and what sort of challenges are you expecting in the coming days ?
There were many. We had sleepless nights when we first initiated and the tournament was about to begin. To conduct any national event with limited resources was always going to be tough.
Finding good sponsors, proper hotels for accommodation and a perfectly playable ground are the primary challenges. We got rejected by many stakeholders, but thankfully Wai Wai alongside Inaruwa Municipality showed faith in us and played their part to make the event successful.
We were determined enough to prepare a good turf wicket.
The challenge now is to maintain and upgrade the standard that we have set. It’s tough to start and tougher to continue. Successful are those who continue their work with honesty and with the same intent. And the best part is, we are doing the work that motivates us to improve.
What is the positive impact that the MM Cup left in Inaruwa, in terms of economy, tourism and sports?
MM Cup has helped Inaruwa earn some recognition. Every year, national and international players come here and visit us for a couple of weeks. The tournament has got the mileage that it deserves and players have also been promoting it through their social media accounts.
To some extent it has brought business to hotels, local transportation and vendors. I guess the hotels around the tournament venue had a collective business of around Rs 2.5 million in two weeks. Since Inaruwa is not a touristic place, I guess that was a very good number.
The tournament is a sporting festival here. We have stars walking around for an evening stroll, their presence lights up the alleys and thats wonderful for a small city like Inaruwa.
But most importantly, it has helped the local players up their game courtesy the competition with national idols. They can join them for practice sessions and interact with big players and learn the traits of the game. I see the tournament creating a bigger pool for us in coming days.
What is the reason behind shifting the competition to Kathmandu?
This is one of the FAQs here in Inaruwa and the decision has also been criticised. We are compelled to shift the tournament to Kathmandu due to ground facility. We were giving our all to organise the event on the ground with zero facility since the first edition. But unfortunately, that ground is no more available for us and we had to make this call.
MM Cup, however, is the identity of Inaruwa and Province 1. The event will return to its home once the facilities are up to the mark. Kathmandu is its temporary hosting place.
Which was the toughest edition so far and why?
It has to be the first edition. We were financial hit hard although we had the bases covered on managerial aspect. We had been working very hard as a single unit and management was no more a problem. At the same time it was hard to win the confidence of the sponsors or stakeholders in general.
The first edition helped us to set a benchmark and establishment. It played an immense role underlining our credentials as tournament organisers and win confidence of the sponsors.
How was the preparation going for the third edition?
We had just started after Cricket Association of Nepal gave us a nod to host the event jointly at the TU grounds and Mulpani Cricket Ground. We were about to finalise our title sponsors before COVID-19 struck back again. We are hopeful that the second wave goes away and we will be able to host the third installment.
The tournament is currently a 50-over even. How viable is it to transform into a multi-day cricket ?
It’s even difficult to organise a 50-over event with the nature of sponsorship that we have for the time being. The main objective is to establish MM Cup as a 50-over show. But we are planning multi-day events, at least for the district teams here in Province 1. We will announce the multi-day event in future, if we see any window or possibility.
What’s your personal favourite moment of MM Cup so far ?
The event which we dreamt about a few years back, have now become a recognised tournament in the country. I have played a part in establishing the identity of our city. Players are now taking this tournament as a platform to get launched into Nepal’s domestic cricket.
The personal proudest moment so far is to successfully include the Malaysian team in our tournament. It was the first instance where an international team took part in Nepal’s domestic tournament. It feels proud when your vision works.
What played an important role in bringing Malaysia XI?
The joint effort of our organizing team, technical team and Cricket Association of Nepal made it possible. They were very happy with our facilities and hospitality. I’m in continuous touch with them and they are very keen to participate in coming editions as well.
What was the reason behind bringing in a Malaysian team?
It was part of our initial concept. We also had one Indian local team in our first edition. We believe the foreign side bring different flavour and charm to the events. We were looking forward to having a proper international side in the second edition and Malaysia agreed to send their main side, so it happened.
What motivates you to work in cricket?
My dream of playing for the national remained unfulfilled. As I failed to contribute to the nation as a player, I decided to play my part off the field. I believe, an off-the-field contribution is equally important as it is on-the-field. The fact that my contribution to my nation by any mean motivates me to work hard.
How did CAN assist you ? What do you expect from them in coming days?
The CAN itself was on suspension when we launched the event. They played a very important role in helping us to include the Malaysian Team in the tournament. They are watching our tournament closely and providing their inputs in whatever way possible.
What are the future plans of Sunsari Cricket Association?
We brought few sponsors and conducted a very useful seven-day camp before the provincial selection tournament for PM Cup. We provided them with every facility and the result was there for the taking. They played brilliant cricket throughout the competition and were competitive against Morang in the final.
We have a young team that needs to be looked after through proper investment. There are age level tournaments postponed due to COVID-19. Our boys need to put a challenge there. We, ourself, are launching an event after sometimes. Let’s keep that as a surprise.
What’s your take on Province 1 cricket. Where exactly is it lacking ?
Its vision. There has been no tournament in a span of over two years. The Provincial board always waits for CAN for the funds ahead of any tournament. The Provincial board needs to find ways to be independent, specificially in terms of financial aspects. But no one is trying it because there is no vision because working for the board have no personal gains.
The president himself belongs to a different field. He might be visionary or hard-working but cricket is not his cup of coffee. I am not blowing my own trumpet but the provincial board needs me as a leader.
The highly regarded cricketing brain in the board, the ex-international players, failed badly to perform. They looked clueless and clinging on to the post has been just about laying another brick to their portfolio.
Leave alone the game’s development, they haven’t even finalised the board structure with half of their tenure already finished. The current board is an aeroplane without a pilot.
Manmohan Memorial Foundation released a relief package for players facing difficulties during the first wave of COVID-19. We arranged an insurance program for all the provincial and district players on our own. But the board kept mum.
Province 1 women’s team won PM Cup in Dang. They had the winning confidence and financial benefits as well but the board didn’t even took stalks of how the team was preparing before Mayor Cup. We lost.