Nepal U-19 in Singapore: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
July 27, 2017 07:45 AM NPT
By: Rajan Shah
KATHMANDU, July 26: Nepal U-19 cricket team had left for Singapore to take part in the ICC U-19 World Cup Division -1 Asia Qualifier with a target to qualify for the final round to be held in New Zealand next year.
Disappointing defeats to Afghanistan, twice, in the competition played in the double round robin league format have prevented Nepal from qualifying into the world cup.
The Nepali youth team under head coach Binod Das had some good, bad and ugly experiences during the qualifiers.
Sandeep Lamichhane picked up 24 wickets in six matches including three five-wicket-hauls. His seven wickets for just 13 runs against Malaysia is new record for a Nepali spinner in ICC events. He dismissed 12 Malaysian batsmen including nine against Singapore, and three against Afghanistan. It speaks of his brutality against lesser opponents compared to newly crowned test nation Afghanistan. This performance cemented his spot in the national squad.
Shahab Alam, trademark Nepali left arm spinner, had an aspiring debut assignment in national colors. He picked up 12 wickets in five matches despite being dropped for a match. He impressed all with his seven wickets against Afghanistan, the most by any bowler against them in this tournament. Lamichhane only managed three. He emerged as a good option for veteran spin duo of senior team.
Dipendra Singh Airee has struggled with physical fitness in the past. He did not bowl in the first two qualifying matches. His fitness levels will still be a matter of concern but he resumed bowling for Nepal, picking up five wickets in four innings, which helped Nepal to build a potent seam bowling unit. He was also a vital cog in the batting lineup. He was struggling for fluency in Singapore but still managed most runs for Nepal. He scored 131 runs including the only fifty by a Nepali batsman in the event.
Pace bowling has never been our strength. The tradition continued in Singapore. Nepal had two genuine pace options. Kishore Mahato did his best picking up six wickets but lack of support from the other end made him ineffective. Rohit Poudel was tutored to partner him but could not pick up a single wicket in his 17 overs. Rijan Dhakal featured in a game and picked up a wicket. Airee had to come to rescue in a desperate measure.
Wholesale changes were made to the U-19 squad which played Youth Asia Cup in December 2016. Except Dipendra Singh Airee and Rohit Poudel, none of the selected batsmen had a campaign worth mentioning in the Asia Cup. Still, Prakash KC was preferred over Avinash Karna and Sandeep Sunar was given another run despite continued failures. Karna scored 69 runs in two matches played in Sri Lanka.
Allrounders are vital to balance playing XI. Rohit Poudel and Pawan Sarraf struggled. Pawan only could manage 42 runs in 115 deliveries he faced. He struggled to rotate strike. To his defense, he bowled pretty well as a partnership breaker. Meanwhile, Rohit had a decent run with bat scoring 67 runs in 113 deliveries which included three undefeated innings. But he struggled with the ball failing to take a single wicket.
The toss, including both senior and junior teams, has become an open secret for the opponents. Nepal won five tosses in Singapore and decided to bowl in four of them. In the only match they elected to bat first, they succumbed to a meager total against the home team. Singapore almost won the match if they had not self-exploded at the end of the chase. Nepal’s predictability with win-toss-bowl-first is indirectly helping the opposition teams to prepare better.
Aasif Shiekh displayed immense skills and maturity by scoring a century in Everest Premier League. After the century, he had a quiet stint in Sri Lanka, an average Dhangadhi Premier League, and a forgettable India practice tour. The lean patch followed him to Singapore. His bad form exposed the already out-of-form middle order. His scores since his debut reads 1 (7), 18 (32), 1 (6), 4 (5), 23 (20), 6 (23), 3 (14), DNB and 2 (16).
Sandeep Sunar’s form added insult to the injury. Both the openers struggled to put the runs on the board. They opened the floodgates for collapse in demanding turfs and circumstances. He has scored 2 (8), 7 (35), 1 (9), 6 (8), 2 (17), 26 (55), 15 (24) and 6 (17) since the last U-19 world cup, which speaks of his inability with the bat for quite some time now.
The batting and strategies, as an overall, always upsets Nepal in any major ICC event. Nepal is struggling to do the basics right. 99 and 49 all out versus Afghanistan, 92 for 5 and 61 for 5 versus Malaysia, 168 all out and 77/6 versus Singapore are apathy of a record Nepal has ever produced in an ICC event in recent memory. Nepal has a capable bowling lineup despite lacking quality seamers but it cannot be said same for the batting and the decisions and strategies Nepal makes on field. The inexperience of the duo Pranit Thapa Magar and Anil Sah was exposed by the opposition bowlers. They were the two most shuffled batsmen in the lineup. Asking Airee to bowl was a last ditch decision. It is a consistent problem that starts with tosses itself.