Nepal on Thursday announced a 16-member final squad for February’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier as coach Pubudu Dassanayake sprung surprise with both his inclusion and omission.
Young talents Bibek Yadav and Lokesh Bam were the biggest inclusion in the team following their recent exploits in domestic cricket, while wicketkeeper Binod Bhandari and fast bowling allrounder Sompal Kami were axed out.
The squad also sees the return of Sharad Vesawkar and Pradeep Airee but most importantly it was seamer Jitendra Mukhiya who made headlines forging a comeback into the after seven years. Also excluded was left arm spinner Sushan Bhari Shrestha.
Other members in the team included skipper Sandeep Lamichhane, Gyanendra Malla, Dipendra Singh Airee, Kushal Bhurtel, Kushal Malla, Karan KC, Abinash Bohora, Aarif Sheikh, Aasif Sheikh, Shahab Alam and Kamal Singh Airee.
Nepal are pitted in Group ‘A’ of the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers alongside Oman, Canada and Philippines. The other group consists of Ireland, UAE, Germany and Bahrain. While the top two from each group enter the semi-finals, the finalists will qualify for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
Delight for two youngsters
If Bhandari and Sompal had to face the embarassment of exclusion, Bibek and Lokesh had their moment of delight after being called up for the most important tournament for Nepal.
Bibek has been one of the consistent performers in the country’s domestic cricket. Having recently played in the ACC U-19 Asia Cup in the UAE, he was lauded for his fluent run making capabilities since he introduced himself to Nepali cricket through the One Day Nationals last year.
He was also among the consistent performers for Pokhara Rhinos in last year’s Everest Premier League and made runs during the U-19 Nationals and recently concluded Senior Twenty20 Nationals.
Lokesh, who didn’t have best of the U-19 Nationals was unable to make it to the U-19 Asia Cup squad and 30-member preliminary squad when Pubudu began his closed-camp two weeks ago.
But his two quickfire innings in the Senior Twenty20 Nationals forced the coach to draft him into the system. He set the tournament ablaze hammering an 18-ball 66 after completing a 14-ball 50 against Tribhuvan Army Club in the semi-finals.
He had also struck a 21-ball half century against Bagmati in one of the league matches.
While Bhandari had not have big Twenty20 scores off late, he lost his place to collective wicket-keeping and consistent performance from Pradeep and Aasif Sheikh. Both the batsmen had three big opening wicket partnerships — two of them century stands — in the Twenty20 Nationals.
Sompal hardly looked in shape during the Twenty20 Nationals and seemed uncomfortable throughout the tournament.
Pradeep and Sharad were making a comeback into the side after the 2019 ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Region Qualifier.
The biggest story was written by Jitendra Mukhiya, who had long lost his place to Karan and Sompal before new generation of fast bowlers came into the scene. He last played for Nepali team during the 2015 Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in Ireland and Scotland. He now has been performing consistently in the domestic tournaments including the EPL and recent Nationals.