A wind of change seemed inevitable when Nepal continued their impressive run in the ICC ladder leaping to Division-II following a remarkable turn-around of fortune that saw the boys in ‘Red & Blue’ lift the ICC World Cricket League Division-III title in Bermuda just more than a year back.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayake was at the heart of the transformation of the Nepali side when he turned what once was a group of submissive batsmen into the ones who were delivering with the willow. The change was evident in Division-IV in Malaysia in September, 2012 when openers – Subash Khakurel and Anil Mandal – slammed centuries.
It was the first outing where two Nepali batsmen hit centuries in a single tournament and possibly a benchmark the team established in terms of winning the tournament with batting.
Bowling has never been a hideout for Nepal and with the new generation given to follow the legions of Basanta Regmi and Shakti Gauchan – and now probably Som Pal Kami in seam bowling –, it seems it will never be.
The change was gladly accepted and more fuel was added to the acceptance when the country shared the ACC Trophy Elite with the United Arab Emirates in October, 2012. In a historic final that ended in a dramatic draw, the centurion duo of Subash and Anil laid the foundation with a 94-run opening wicket stand.
It was once again batting that delivered in the desert taking Nepal to draw a match in chase of 242, with modest one can assume Nepal were the winners. Winners because they were the same set of players for whom a target close to 200 used to be a herculean task.
Nepali cricket was at its prime, it is still considering the team has played one World Cup, albeit in a shorter version in which they are gradually mastering. But cricket’s life for the time being seems to be the 50-over show.
The whole country had high expectations when the Division-III title triumph navigated them to New Zealand for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in January this year. Higher level of competition and money were the best the New Zealand Qualifiers gave to the participating teams. The best of all was two available spots in the 2015 50-over World Cup.
With everything going right for the last one year, cricket lovers, players or the administrators might have though Nepali cricket was to go with the winds of change. There was a belief that the struggle for proper infrastructure, money to players and the level of competition was now not so far – a belief that was given more strength by the performance and the confidence in the team think tank.
As the story in New Zealand unfolded, everything slowly fizzled out. A place in the World Cup slipped away and so did the money and a busy schedule in the ICC calendar. Nepal languished at the ninth spot, they relegated back.
The boys in Red & Blue were defeated, dejected and until the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangaldesh, they were rejected. The magic from Dassanayake waned, the belief was lost and now as the team is in its reverse gear, they have been eased with the pressure of high expectations. Better for the team.
However, not everything has been lost as it was revealed by the world cricket governing body. The Division-III participants will once again get an opportunity to have a shot at the busy ICC schedule. There could be the World Cricket League Championship and there could be the Intercontinental Cup.
The high-level competition beckons Nepal and from a reverse gear they need to rocket.
ALL THE BEST