Everest Premier League: A saga of parallel success

Published On: December 25, 2018 07:51 AM NPT By: Rajan Shah

KATHMANDU, Dec 25: Everest Premier League (EPL) successfully completed its third season on December 22 providing the cricketers and cricket fans a reason to celebrate an early Christmas as Lalitpur Patriots won the tournament defeating Bhairahawa Gladiators in the final played at Kirtipur.

A crowd of more than 20,000 fans flocked the TU Cricket Ground to witness another history being made as foreign players like Ryan ten Doeschate, Ravi Inder Singh, Sunny Patel and Jaikishan Kolsawala and national stars like Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Vesawkar along with youngsters like Pawan Sarraf and Kushal Malla put up a cricketing extravaganza entertaining the spectators that turned up in numbers.

EPL has become an annual and important event in the country’s small cricket calendar reminding the world about Nepal’s unmatched passion and dedication for the cricket despite being suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for three years now.  

The first edition of Everest Premier League (EPL, the one with the corporate names) back in 2016 was a result of years of hard work, persistence and vision with fair share of controversy to its name before the culmination finally happened. The on-field results progressed alongside the off-field accomplishments of the EPL.

Whilst the Sharad Vesawkar-led Panchakanya Tez was revolutionizing cricket played inside the oval, Aamir Akhthar and company were achieving similar things in the world of corporate and Nepali domestic cricket scene, changing the ball game altogether.

Paras Khadka is the most successful captain of Nepal and any other major team that he has led in Nepali domestics, including Armed Police Force (APF) and other franchise teams. Meanwhile, a shrewd captain on his own which observers realized later, Vesawkar was doing his best bit to make Khadka’s team Nepal, APF or Kathmandu as invincible as possible.

Then arrived Nepal Premier League in 2014, the extended previous 50-over version of EPL. Vesawkar, who was a household name by then for his heroics in ICC World T20 Qualifiers in 2013, was presented with a full-fledged opportunity to captain a side, Panchakanya Tez, one of the six franchises announced by the EPL at the time.

Vesawkar won the one-day edition played at Fapla Cricket Ground, Dhangadhi (now a Dream Fapla project to establish an international standard cricket stadium). Two years later, setting all the controversies aside, EPL came back to fruition with brand new name and shorter version of T20 cricket. The same teams participated in the event and the result was the same as Vesawkar led Tez won another tournament.

Since then, Bhairahawa Gladiators have reached two finals in 2017 and 2018 editions of EPL. It lost both the finals against Biratnagar Warriors and Lalitpur Patriots but remains the most consistent team of the premier league.

The right handed middle order batsman established himself as a very capable captain and shrewd tactician in high-stakes domestic cricket. Whilst Tez helped nurture future national players and captains like Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee and Aasif Sheikh, EPL become an institution of its own.

Young star Kushal Malla signed in this year’s EPL making crucial contributions in playoffs to make sure Gladiators played the final. Similarly, Avinash Bohora has improved tremendously this year playing all the matches and picking up key wickets. 

“I think backing young players will always give you results in such tournaments. They are unknown entities and always look to prove themselves which probably help them to perform,” said Vesawkar after sealing a place in the final.

As a leader of quality events held in Nepal, EPL stands on top of the peak of competitive cricket with the successful completion of the 2018 season. The quality of cricket played in the tournament was matched by the match fees, winning amounts and high-level professionalism of the marquee event in Nepal.

Vesawkar and EPL’s feats herald the parallel success of two sides of cricket: individual players and the entire sport. In Vesawkar, Nepal has found a new leader in the cricket team, and in EPL, new leader of domestic cricket events.

National cricketers like Rohit Kumar Paudel and Anil Kumar Sah give credit to EPL for paving their way to the national camp. Khadka acknowledged EPL to be the best cricket event of Nepal. He was, however, unhappy with the prize money of Rs 2.5 million given the growing stature of the league.

And not only national players but internationals like Asif Ali who made it to Pakistan national side and Taaj Wali who was recently selected for Pakistan A side entertained spectators at Kirtipur in the EPL last year followed by a host of popular current international stars like Richard Levi, Kyle Coetzer, Ryan ten Doeschate, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, etc lined up for the event in the third season that concluded recently.

The Indian first-class veteran Ravi Inder Singh, who played for Vesawkar’s Gladiators, had the notion that EPL was the biggest cricket event of Nepal. Ryan ten Doeschate wanted to participate in the event last year itself but could find the proper window only in 2018.

Both the players from two very different parts of the world agreed that Nepal had huge potential in both individual players and the entire sport of cricket. 

“I didn’t know Nepal had such good players. They are very competitive,” said Singh. Ten Doeschate added: “Nepal has similar resources and passion for the game to be the next Afghanistan of cricket. It is all about giving the depth for not only national players but others too.”

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