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Veteran Sharad in a spot of bother

As Nepal began its training camp on Tuesday, veteran middle order batsman Sharad Vesawkar will be hoping to make the final cut amidst a cut-throat competition for selection in the national team.

Sharad last played for Nepal in the 2020 ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 Tri-Series game held in January. He had made a scratchy 55 off 108 against Oman in the first game at the TU grounds as Nepal fell 18 runs short in chase of a mediocre 198 from 50 overs.

Sharad, who was involved in three notable partnerships in that game, was then ruled out of the remainder of the series due to injury.

Missing out on the ACC Eastern Region Twenty20 Asia Cup Qualifier in Thailand — Nepal’s only second international participation of a COVID-19 hit 2020 — Sharad came back into domestic fore to lead the Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club.

But things have not been the same for Sharad anymore.

He did lead APF to the finals of the Prime Minister Cup and Mayor’s Cup but compiled just 160 runs from 11 matches. His lone half-century (61 not out) came against Kathmandu Mayor’s XI. The APF captain was out for duck in the finals of both the tournament.

Sharad led Nepal APF Club to finals of two domestic tournaments but couldn’t find form with the bat.

The dismissal in the Mayor’s Cup, however, remained disputed after it appeared the ball from emerging seamer Gulshan Jha had brushed his shoulders in TV replays after he was adjudged caught behind.

“I have stopped thinking about that (poor run of form). If I am getting flopped and the team is winning then I would rather be very happy,” Sharad had said when his side pulled off a sensational victory over Tribhuvan Army Club during the Mayor’s Cup.

Nevertheless, for a player still trying to rediscover himself for internationals, a lean patch is always a concern.

Sharad has been drafted in the preliminary 20-man squad joining the closed-camp for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 Tri-Series involving Scotland and Namibia in Spain.

National cricket team chief selector Uttam Karmacharya wanted to leave Sharad’s poor form behind. “Along with recent performances, combination and certain role of the player should be considered while building the team. Experience does count,” said Karmacharya.

During the time Sharad missed out on three international tours, newcomers in the national team have all performed. Kushal Burtel, Aasif Sheikh and Kushal Malla have all delivered despite the trio being the toast in Twenty20 format through its recent Tri-Nation Series exploits.

While Sharad sit out of the Tri-Nation Cup, Kushal Malla, Kushal Bhurtel, Dipendra Singh Airee and Aasif Sheikh all performed.

The only spot available in the national team is the opening slot but it seems to have been taken over by Kushal and Aasif, the two youngsters who flourished under Sharad’s captaincy in the domestic competitions.

Skipper Gyanendra Malla, former captain Paras Khadka, Dipendra Singh Airee and Binod Bhandari will form the middle order. With Kushal Malla also waiting on the wings, it will give coach Dave Whatmore a real headache to prepare an ideal batting line-up.

The stiffness of the competition to get into the national fold is such that even Aarif Sheikh’s place looks shaky. Another veteran Basanta Regmi and youngster Rohit Kumar Paudel have already seen the exit doors.

Meanwhile, Karmacharya now will have a replacement to find for Prithu Baskota, the consistent performer with the bat in domestic circuit, after he pulled out because of personal reasons and current circumstances caused by COVID-19. Prithu is currently in America.

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