Spin bowling has been Nepal’s fortress since the time the country started playing cricket officially. Any opponent facing Nepal would genuinely prepare to face spinners.
Left arm duo Shakti Gauchan and Basanta Regmi along with Sanjam Regmi were the front runners when Nepal’s one-sided victories against lesser-ranked teams or tough fight against relatively strong opponents revolved around spinners.
The second generation spinners then came to the fore with Sandeep Lamichhane taking their legacy a step further. The baton now is also carried by Sushan Bhari Shrestha, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi and Shahab Alam to name a few as the country never faces dearth in spinners.
Nevertheless, for the last few years Nepali bowling attack is not only about the slow bowlers. The likes of Sompal Kami, Karan KC and Abinash Bohora have perfectly filled in the shoes of ace speedsters Binod Das, Mehboob Alam and followed by Amrit Bhattarai and Chandra Saud.
On pitches not overly advantageous to pace bowlers, Nepal’s quicks comfortably outperformed Netherlands and Malaysia in April’s Tri-Nation Series.
They collectively bowled 53 out of 92.5 overs throughout the series and accounted for 19 scalps. Adding to the new trio’s list was Kamal Singh Airee who took five wickets on his debut Twenty20 International Series.
They returned an average of 17.63 on the track that was not tailor-made for the fast bowlers.
Pacers now playing a role
To see the pace bowlers running in with that enthusiasm and getting on the top of their opposition batting line-up was a sight to behold.
From fielding only one pacer, not so long ago, at home to featuring four against the Netherlands in the final of the Tri-Nation series, Nepal’s pace attack is also in the verge of playing a perfect fiddle in the country’s upcoming victories.
Between 2014 to 2019, Nepalese pacers have bowled only 33.65% of overs with spinners largely taking over the responsibilities. Sompal alone bowled 473.5 overs, 52 percent among fast bowlers, in those years.
Sompal had picked up 108 out of 182 wickets Nepalese pacers have taken but it is a stark contrast to 385 victims that spin department has accounted for.
Since the start of 2019, the Nepalese fast bowling attack sent down 338.3 overs and picked up 107 wickets at an average of 19.33. Along with improving average from 26 to 19, the strike rate of the Nepalese pace bowlers progresses notably from 30.30 to 18.98 in the last three years.
Since 2019, Nepal’s win percentage has moved up to 83.33 from 58.06 when pace brigade has collected four or more wickets in a match. In the last three years, the pace attack has got four or more wickets 18 times. Nepal did win 15 of them.
Nepal has only won three matches out of 31 they played since 2019 when the pacers returned less than four-wicket figures.
With pace bowlers delivering constantly, spinners have managed to do what they normally do by consistently returning average close to 19 throughout.
Trio in the forefront
Karan, usually known for breaking partnership in middle-overs, has picked up 50 wickets since 2019. He averages 16.46 in the last three years, giving an improvement of 12 in average compared to how he fared before 2019. Debuting for Nepal against Uganda in 2015, Karan has picked 80 wickets for Nepal so far.
Sompal has so far taken 133 wickets for Nepal bowling 530 overs. His bowling average manages to remain stagnant at 21 throughout his career.
Abinash Bohara, who established himself as a death over specialist, so far has 21 wickets. Making his debut against the United Arab Emirates in January 2019, he was named player of the series in his very first outing in the three-match Twenty20 International Series.
Kamal, Bikram Sob, Jitendra Mukhiya and Rashid Khan are regularly performing well in the domestic circuit and waiting on the wings for opportunities.
As the whole of national team is closing in on a complete transformation, the country needs to make sure fast bowlers never cease to lose their strength.
The trio of Sompal, Karan and Abhinash are bringing literal change in Nepal’s fast bowling department but they face a tough ask to keep themselves fit and perform in the long run.
With more fast bowlers emerging from the shadow, they need to set a benchmark that should be broken by emerging speedsters.
There was once a time when Nepal held fast bowling camp that saw Jitendra perform to his utmost during the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
Its high time that programme of those kinds are conducted frequently or hone the upcoming youngsters abroad.
Cricket Association of Nepal should hold the grip and keep enlarging the pace bowlers’ pool if current baton held by Sompal, Karan or Abhinash is rightly handed over.