No one thought it was coming. Nepal Police Club (NPC) are the defending champions and most importantly form a youthful squad that has a bunch of talented cricketers either in the national team or fighting to wear the coveted jersey.
But on Sunday, their Prime Minister Cup One Day National cricket tournament title defense opened on a sour note when they were inflicted a humiliatin seven-wicket defeat by Bagmati Province. An incredible collapse saw NPC lose their last seven wickets for just 11 runs, a worry not only for the departmental giants but also Nepali cricket as a whole.
The NPC batting unit consists of settled national team members Dipendra Singh Airee, also a vice-captain in the senior fold, and Aarif Sheikh along with experienced Sunil Dhamala, Amit Shrestha, Anil Sah and Pawan Sarraf. As Amit still waits for a senior team debut, Dhamala, Anil and Pawan have all played for the national side.
To sum it up, NPC squad is both the present and future of Nepali cricket.
They had eased to title triumph in the 2019 edition brushing aside another departmental giants Tribhuvan Army Club that boasted a haul of experienced international cricketers.
They headed for Sunday’s clash against Bagmati as clear favourites but the star-studded batting order was demolished by U-19 leg spinner Tilak Bhandari who was playing his first senior level national tournament game and medium pacer Nandan Yadav, a bowler not known for many.
Nandan and Tilak both took four wickets each but it was irresponsible batting, what NPC captain Manjeet Shrestha wanted to call when the veteran allrounder reflected on his side’s meek batting dispay after the game. These are experienced guys and I don’t have to tell them anything. They know where it went wrong for them,” said Manjeet.
The only brief respite in the game for NPC was a 34-run partnership between Aarif and Dipendra who both top scored for their side with 21 runs. The match turned around when Tilak trapped Aarif leg before and Dipendra fished with a rising delivery from Nandan for a simple caught behind.
NPC desperately needed Anil and Pawan to forge a partnership but both threw away their wickets as their batting was in complete disarray.
Bagmati skipper Gyanendra Malla was happy to sign in with a victory that could now make them table toppers from the pool but no national team captain would like to see the future hopefuls capitulate the way his opponents did on Sunday.
“This is a 50-over game and its during these type of games you need to show character. The situation was perfect for a couple of players (from the opponents) to show that character and prove that they belong at a higher level,” said Gyanendra.
“This is also a message for those guys who tend to believe that making into the national team after scoring runs at national level is the end of the story. The guys should make the habit of thinking about winning games for Nepal but not only about being in the national team,” summed up the national team captain.