Mission WC begins for Nepal with historic home ODIs

Published On: February 5, 2020 12:40 PM NPT By: Rajan Shah

KATHMANDU, Feb 5: Nepal national cricket team is set to host the United States and Oman in a historic home leg of One-day International (ODI) tri-series under ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 2019-22 from February 5 to 12, to begin its bid to reach the World Cup Qualifiers which will further propel Nepal in contention for an elusive spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 in India.

Nepal is yet to play a single ODI match in the League 2 whereas visitors, the United States holds the top position with 12 points, six wins out of eight matches, and Oman has seen an uprising in its cricket, advancing to number four with eight points in the league. Scotland (second), Namibia (third), United Arab Emirates (fifth), and Papua New Guinea (winless) are the other four teams in the league.

Nepal didn’t play a single series in 2019. However, the national team is braced to feature in four this year. Before traveling to Namibia in April, PNG in June and Scotland in July, Nepal will host its first ODI match and series to engrave TU Cricket Ground in Kirtipur as the brand new ODI venue for cricket.

The 25th match of League 2 and the 4236th ODI match ever will feature Nepal and Oman. TU Cricket Ground will establish itself as the 209th ODI venue. The fifth of the 21 series to be played in League 2 will see the TU Ground host six ODIs from February 5 to 12. Each team will play four ODIs each during the series with a maximum of eight points available to each team.

Nepal has been an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 1996. Nepal was awarded Twenty20 International (T20I) status by the ICC first in June 2014. On March 15, 2018, Nepal gained ODI status for the first time (and regained Twenty20 International status), after winning the first playoff match in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018. Whilst the TU Ground was fast-tracked to prepare as an ODI wicket under the guidance of ICC match referee, umpire and former Sri Lanka test player Bandula Warnapura.

Four tri-series events have been completed in League 2 with Scotland, Namibia, United States and United Arab Emirates wining the respective tri-nation series. 

After the 21 tri-series of ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 have been completed, the top three teams will confirm their place in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2022. The bottom four teams will drop into the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-Off 2022 and will be joined by the winner of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League A and B. The top two teams from the Play-Off will keep their hopes alive in participating in the World Cup 2023 in India, by qualifying for the Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2022.

Nepal cricket and subtle controversy has never been apart. The resignation news of head coach Umesh Patwal just before the all-important tournament due to the tussle with National Sports Council (NSC) is a set-back for the national cricket team preparing to host a successful home series against in-form teams like the United States and Oman. The tri-series may well be Patwal’s last assignment with the Nepali team with no certainty over his imminent future.

Nepal's first match against Oman on Wednesday is intriguing in itself after the latter had been the better team of two in the recent past. The conditions at TU cricket ground, helpful to spin, will further suit Omani players more than the United States. It has been seven years and four 50-over matches since Nepal has defeated Oman in international cricket. The presence of star players like Bilal Khan, Kaleemullah, captain Zeeshan Maqsood and Aqib Ilyas, who were pivotal in resurrecting Oman cricket will look to continue the good work. 

Nepal enjoys slightly better record against the United States. It will miss the ever dependable Subash Khakurel. The United States’ spin problems were flashed after the team crumbled for 74 runs chasing 112 against CAN President XI match played at Mulpani Cricket Ground in Kathmandu on Tuesday. The United States’ Steven Taylor top-scored with 27 runs. Whilst, the visiting team will have to negotiate Nepal’s spin attack led by mercurial Sandeep Lamichhane whereas Nepal will have to brace for pace attack led by veteran Rusty Theron and captain Saurabh Netravalkar who is adept at swinging the ball both ways.

Nepal remains in transition with couple of new players being promoted to international circuit every series. This time, Kushal Malla, Avinash Bohara, Kamal Singh Airee and Sushan Bhari are in line to make their debut if an opportunity arises.

Captain Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka are set to open the batting for Nepal whereas Sharad Vesawkar will have the responsibility to marshal around the young batsmen in the middle order. The vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee, in-form Aarif Sheikh and Rohit Kumar Paudel are in line to take the remaining batting spots while Binod Bhandari will keep the wickets.

Karan KC is default leader of the attack in the absence of star all-rounder Sompal Kami who was ruled out due to fitness issues. Avinash Bohara is likely replacement given the death bowling duties that might be crucial. It leaves Nepal with one between Bhari and Lalit Rajbanshi to partner Lamichhane for the spin duties. Kushal Malla and Kamal Singh Airee may have to wait for their respective debuts.

Nepal: Gyanendra Malla (captain), Paras Khadka, Sharad Vesawkar, Dipendra Singh Airee, Aarif Sheikh, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Binod Bhandari, Kushal Malla, Karan KC, Avinash Bohara, Kamal Singh Airee, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sushan Bhari, Lalit Rajbanshi

United States: Saurabh Netravalkar (captain), Steven Taylor, Ian Holland, Akshay Homraj, Elmore Hutchinson, Aaron Jones, Nosthush Kenjige, Xavier Marshall, Monank Patel, Nisarg Patel, Timil Patel, Cameron Stevenson, Rusty Theron, Karima Gore

Oman: Zeeshan Maqsood (captain), Aqib Ilyas (vice-captain), Jatinder Singh, Khawar Ali, Sanuth Ebrahim, Suraj Kumar, Muhammed Naseem, Sandeep Goud, Muhammed Nadeem, Jay Odedra, Baadal Singh, Ahmed Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan

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