The past had shown them nervy but in the present they are delivering to delight the doubters.
With young Prithu Baskota along with his ICC U-19 World Cup teammate Pradeep Airee and powerful hitter Binod Bhandari playing crucial role in Nepal’s first ever ACC Twenty20 Cup final appearance, skipper Paras Khadka was quick to conclude that youngsters performing was the biggest positive.
Paras and his battalion, under ever-inspiring mentor and Coach Pubudu Dassanayake, displayed a huge amount of intensity in a format that is cautiously associated with Nepal. Be it in a run chase or target-defense, the intensity the team had lacked in the past spilled out in every player before getting viral around the stadium.
Though Nepal went on to lose the title to the eventual four-time champions Afghanistan, they were undoubtedly the winners proving themselves as ‘hungrier hunters’ capable of pulling off big things, and most importantly, holding firm to their “never say die attitude”.
The mass that thronged at the TU Stadium cheered every dot ball and applauded every single. The men in blue and red, in return, kept winning matches to the delight of the mass. But winning matches have come not alone from the solid leadership and inspiring performance from Paras but also other team members who were eager to justify their presence in the team.
No one was the loser in the team with seamers having room for excuse on a newly laid pitch that was carved as a batting paradise. The openers gave the desired start, the middle order avoided any collapse and the spinners were always there to tighten the screws.
The best of all was youngsters winning a crunch semi-final against the UAE.
Nepal had gone into the semi-finals as a team that lost to UAE by six wickets in the previous edition in Kathmandu. But what turned around was just reciprocal this time – thanks to the youngsters who have shaped very well under Dassanayake.
Prithu jolted the UAE innings early in the match after the U-19 skipper took two quick wickets. The early setback restricted UAE to 134. Pradeep, along with his opening partner Subash Khakurel, laid the foundation in the chase adding 61 runs for the first wicket inside 10 overs.
Pradeep went on to score a half century and left it late on Binod to complete the chase. In a pressure cooker situation when Nepal needed 18 runs of the last 12 balls, Binod hit two huge sixes to ensure there was no turning back for Nepal this time.
With final expected to be an evenly-contested duel, Nepal were heading towards a slide at 41-3 after 10 overs. It was same Binod, who along with Paras, rescued the team with a 71-run partnership. Binod made 34 in the match while Paras completed a half century. Whatever the final outcome was, Dassanayake and Paras were happy to see their effort to mould the youngsters was producing results.
No doubt, Dassanayake has seen a lot of promise in Pradeep and Prithu. Binod’s abilities were never questioned (inside the team), especially after watching him hit a six off the last ball against Kuwait in 2009 that handed Nepal a thrilling victory in one of the ACC Twenty20 Cup matches in UAE.
“We still have a long way to go,” Paras had said after Nepal reached the final. And youngsters will be major force when Nepal begins their road to ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and ICC World Twenty20 2014.