Let’s thank the surreal batting from Karan KC and focus on ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers.
If anyone or anything that Nepali cricket team has missed in their build up to the World Cup Qualifiers, starting from March 4 in Zimbabwe, then I would definitely say its a planner.
The intention of this article is not to instigate another campaign to bring back Pubudu Dassanayake to take the reins of Nepali cricket. But to prove a point that Nepal needs someone like him who would plan before any tough cricketing event looms.
With due respect to current head coach Jagat Tamatta who will now be written to Nepali cricket’s history as the man who guided team to country’s biggest competition hitherto, the successful progress into the Qualifiers was more than mentoring and coaching.
For an instance, take that last over against Canada in a do-or-die clash when Nepal needed eight runs from the last six balls. In a perfect example of death bowling, Cecil Pervez delivers four fuller balls to a menacing Karan KC to leave the No 10 batsman a mute spectator initially.
Then comes the fifth fuller ball but wide at the off-stump which Karan connects and launches it over the mid wicket. The job was done. A wide and another single in the fifth ball would leave the IPL-bound young leg spinning sensation Sandeep Lamichhane literally to tears.
The Division 2 tournament for Nepal was full of escape. From game one against Namibia when Basanta Regmi slammed a six over long-off Sarel Burger in the 49th and a boundary off Jan Frylinck in the 50th overs in a last-over one-wicket thriller to Aarif Sheikh and Rohit Kumar Paudel’s match winning 87-run partnership against Kenya, Nepal have managed to hold their nerves.
As a team which was most of the times seen wilting under pressure, Nepal seems to have got rid of their old nemesis as a side failing to cross the final hurdle. A team that lost their last seven wickets for 16 runs against Afghanistan in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup to lose the game by just three runs has now beaten Canada in last ball.
A team that piled up over 225 runs in both their matches of the ICC World Cricket League Championship against Papua New Guinea and sent back more than half of the team back to pavilion for over 100 runs but still lost both games has now overcome Kenya in another thriller.
And a team that went on to lose against Scotland in the same tournament by one run despite their opener making a century and skipper contributing more than half of it has fought against all odds to seal a place in World Cup Qualifiers irrespective of all the adversities.
Nepal’s entry into the World Cup Qualifiers is a surprise to the world because it has been done entirely on their own. Their plans of pre-tournament preparations for Division 2 was crashed in absence of a home board. Not having a proper coach who would come up with on and off-field plan was already taking the toll on team for the last two years.
Nepal might have been ranked outsiders in Namibia but it ultimately became a place to rediscover themselves and weigh each and every individual in terms of their role and ability.
Back into the crossroads that they were in during the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand, Nepali cricket has once again come to a crucial juncture. The only change is there is no pressure on Nepali team anymore.
The setting for Nepali team in Zimbabwe reminds me of what skipper Paras Khadka told press ahead of the Everest Premier League Twenty20 final where his Biratnagar Warriors side was ready to take on Bhairahawa Gladiators.
“I just want ourselves to express in the final,” Paras had told then. Nepal were given hardly an outside chance to finish inside the top two of Division 2. Although Qualifiers still gives Nepal more opportunities to polish their cricket for the next four years, the tournament still is a bonus for them. Its time for Nepali cricketers to get rid of their submissiveness and express themselves.
Photos Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/espncricinfo.com