With everything lost and in a country which itself is going through instability in almost every other sector‚ cricket might have to fight for another four years of survival through darkness.
All eyes were lit-up when Nepal, in presence of familiar foes United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong along with a slipping Canada in their group, headed for New Zealand for the ICC World Cup Qualifiers to materialise a dream that every cricketer sees. For a team that has been rising in every other means, even the Division-I team like Scotland — the only heavyweight in the group Nepal considered — was just about passing a tough test. A renewed confidence gained through the World Twenty20 had preceded Nepal’s departure to New Zealand and with a kind of run-up Nepal had been into, all eyes were set for at least the Super Six berth. Coach Pubudu Dassanayake and skipper Paras Khadka, the names Nepal have trusted the most for the last two years, were confident of reaching the Super Six that would open the gates for 2015 World Cup at its best and ODI status at the least. But after a crushing 10-wicket defeat to Hong Kong, Nepali cricketers probably failed to lift themselves from a limited international schedule along with the luxuries they could have enjoyed being an ODI nation. Apart from the annual financial assistance from the International Cricket Council, which would have crossed Rs 1.4 million had Nepal reached the World Cup, they also lost a busy international schedule packed with 28 one-day games and 14 four-day matches. Dassanayake believed achieving ODI status was the only way out to provide momentum to the Nepali cricket which lacks proper domestic format, infrastructure and development programmes. Gaining an ODI status would mean a beginning of all those things but Nepal lost everything. The involvement of national team in international fixtures would have forced the cricket administration to focus on the domestic structure apart from compelling the government to prepare the infrastructure. But now with everything lost and in a country which itself is going through instability in almost every other sector, cricket might have to fight for another four years of survival through darkness. Dassanayake — who has put forward several plans when Nepal were in Division-IV — knows how cricket can maintain the momentum gained from the World Twenty20 qualification. “Now a lot of things will depend on the initiation from CAN (Cricket Association of Nepal). Hope they will plan it properly and move forward in the next few years,” says Dassanayake. After qualifying for the World Twenty20, the government itself asked the Youth and Sports Ministry, National Sports Council and CAN to work together and come forward with plans for the sustainable development of cricket. To develop a strong base ahead of the next Qualifiers will now depend much on the smartness and agility shown by the three concerned authorities.
Under-performers For the last two years, Nepali cricket has been producing results owing to an exemplary leadership from skipper Paras Khadka, his performance and the consistency shown by opener Subash Khakurel. Subash has been giving a modest start, be it in limited overs or Twenty20 cricket, easing pressure on the middle order. But after Nepal lost both key players due to injury, the remainder of the team played a submissive cricket throughout the tournament leaving many questions unanswered. While Subash missed the entire tournament, Paras skipped the Scotland fixture — which Nepal lost by 90 runs — but even in matches the captain played, the team hardly impressed. With a lame captain, Nepal were nowhere near their usual best raising questions on the intensity and abilities of other players including the likes of experienced Anil Mandal, Gyanendra Malla and Sharad Vesawkar. The underperformers’ radar also hovers around most trusted Sagar Pun and Prithu Baskota. Expecting at least an ODI status, the cricket fraternity was in a half celebratory mood before the Qualifiers, thanks to the World Twenty20 Qualification and the confidence shown by Dassanayake and Paras. The camp even hailed the run-up that included 10 limited overs games — four in Sri Lanka, four in New Zealand and two warm-up ties. But after the injuries to Paras and Subash, the team was literally paralysed losing its mental balance and experienced campaigners capitulated. Gyanendra and Sharad are considered the most technical batsmen in the Nepali squad but both the middle order mainstays flopped. Gyanendra earned some respect making 86 against Canada but Nepal paid heavily for his failures in the first three matches. Sharad made 54 in the first match against UAE but was dominated by bowlers and it only helped Nepal to reduce the loss-margin in a chase of 298. Openers Anil and Sagar never gave the desired start to the team heading back to the pavilion with both touching the double figure scores only once. Prithu made an expected comeback following his knee injury and his 51-ball 59 against Uganda in the ninth place playoff was the only notable score.
Not the end An amalgam of performance and luck has helped national team in their back-to-back successes. While Nepal gave a scintillating performance in their Division-IV title triumph, luck played a bigger role in Bermuda when they made it to the World Cup Qualifiers avoiding the danger of relegation in a remarkable turnaround of fortune in the Division-III tournament. New Zealand event happened to be a tournament where nothing went Nepal’s way. But without performance neither luck is to be blamed for nor cricket administration. Nepal shared the ACC Trophy Elite in 2012 with hosts UAE after being tied on 242 runs in the final. But not managing even 200 runs on the board in the first three matches clearly speaks about the team’s failure. And the failure leaves the cricket administration with a lot to ponder and a chunk of work to do, especially in the infrastructure and number of tournaments in domestic cricket. In a Test playing nation, dropped players can expect comeback proving oneself in domestic cricket. Numerous domestic tournaments provide chance for the underperformers to regain form. They have three-day and four-day matches which produce thousands of competitive cricketers for limited overs and/or longer version of game. But Nepal’s domestic cricket is nowhere near it. CAN neither has a proper domestic schedule nor the infrastructure across the country to run cricket in a professional manner. Under such circumstances, an out-of-form player in Nepal either bids farewell to cricket or stays long in the team just because once he made a century or batted well or won one of the crucial matches in the past. There is no solid base for comeback to the cricketers. This is not the end, though. The government has shown interest in the development of cricket and the authorities can cash it with purpose. They just need to establish proper infrastructure, introduce proper domestic structure with longer version of tournaments and come up with concrete plans and programmes to produce adequate talented cricketers as a back-up for upcoming generations.
Will Dassanayake quit as coach? After Nepal claimed the Division-III title, Dassanayake had said his primary target would be to either guide Nepal into the World Cup at the best or hand ODI status at least. The coach had said he would ponder his future with Nepal if any of the two targets is not achieved. With Nepal missing out on both chances, Dassanayake could be mulling his future which could be another setback for Nepali cricket. Owing to Dassanayake’s initiation, Nepal got the first central academy, while a number of national players received chances to expose themselves abroad. A departure of Dassanayake could see a halt on the momentum that Nepali cricket has enjoyed over the last two years. His status as Nepal coach could now only be confirmed on how serious the governing body is going to be for the next four years. Since CAN has been delaying his several projects, the coach is one of the dissatisfied receivers of the cricket administrators’ indifference towards the sport. Dassanayake believes that CAN now needs to work harder before heading to the Qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup. “First of all, we need to get cricket at the right track in the domestic level. In the next four years, we will have to come back for the same event with stronger performance,” said the coach. “I am going to give a concrete plan to CAN to restructure the domestic structure so that players who do not perform at the international level can go back and restore confidence in domestic games,” Dassanayake said after Nepal defeated Uganda. “The new comers should also get more cricket to play. We need to have a six-month long cricket season in Nepal. We will get enough support from people. But there is more hard work to be done and CAN should not give up,” the coach concluded.
Note:- This story was taken from THT National Daily which was written by Adarsha Dhakal.