September 27, 2019 07:58 AM NPT
By: Rajan Shah
Players of Nepal national cricket team during a practice session at the Indian Association Ground in Singapore on Thursday. Photo Courtesy: Raman Shiwakoti
KATHMANDU, Sept 27: As Nepal is set to face Test nation Zimbabwe in the first T20 International match on Friday at India Association Ground in Singapore, the country’s cricket is on the crossroad of new era- both in the field and off the field.
The match in Singapore coincides with the two-day Special General Meeting of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) to be held in Kathmandu from Friday for the new leadership of the national cricket governing body that will seal the fate of Nepali cricket for coming days.
Paras Khadka, Nepal’s longest serving national cricket team captain, has mentioned the importance of finding new leader in the dressing room to lead Nepali cricket team further coinciding with central governing body election in Kathmandu searching for its own leader to take Nepal forward.
Dipendra Singh Airee has been appointed new vice-captain in the absence of Gyanendra Malla. Both captain Khadka and head coach Umesh Patwal have been vocal about Sompal Kami as possible future captain.
Meanwhile, on the administrative side, veteran former CAN President Binay Raj Pandey and president of elected body of CAN Chatur Bahadur Chand have announced their candidacy for the CAN leadership.
In Singapore, Nepal is set to face Test nation Zimbabwe five years after they played Test nation Bangladesh during the T20 World Cup. Debutants Kushal Malla, Ishan Pandey, and other young players Rohit Poudel, Sundeep Jora, Susan Bhari, Aarif Sheikh and Pawan Sarraf will look to consolidate their positions in the tournaments. Nepali youngsters will get a minimum of eight matches to showcase their skills.
Nepal will play minimum four matches in Singapore (two each against Singapore and Zimbabwe) before heading to Oman to participate in a five-team T20I series that includes Ireland, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, along with the host team Oman to be held in October. The T20I series is set to start on October 5 with Nepal facing Hong Kong in its first match on October 6.
Meanwhile here in Kathmandu, cricket officials will be busy in organizing the special convention to elect new leadership that is expected to create a ground to reinstate the suspended CAN.
Member Secretary of National Sports Council Ramesh Silwal, during cricket team’s farewell on Wednesday, vowed to reinstate the CAN, which was suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) three years ago accusing the government authorities of interfering into the CAN’s internal affairs.
“I have telephoned the ICC officials 37 times to make sure that we get a positive result during the upcoming Special General Meeting (scheduled for Friday and Saturday). Not only the ICC is looking for systematic, transparent and independent governance from the new cricket governing body in Nepal. In the meantime, the performance of the national team in the tournament will also be a key factor for more opportunities in the coming days,” said Silwal during the program.
Chand, a major contender for the presidency, vowed to bring drastic changes in working methods of Nepali cricket.
“We will not ask for fund (from the ICC). First, we will work on our own and then ask for a fund afterward. It can be for good tournaments or better coaches or projects that can help Nepali cricket. First, the mutual trust between the two sides (CAN and ICC) needs to be revived,” he told to Republica.
Nepal may need to build few international grounds, promulgate the strengths and networks of CAN and promote intellectual workforce to convince the apex body for the reinstatement of the CAN.
Similarly, the inclusion of naturally aggressive batsman like Sarraf, Jora, and Aarif, among others, hints at changing guard for the shortest format of cricket. Of late, the team management seems to have realized that Nepal needs different teams for different formats. The current selection and the latest approach to the game would be crucial for Nepal in regaining its lost stature in world cricket after missing out on ICC T2O World Cup in Australia.
Nepal now aims not to miss out next T20 World Cup which is to be held in India in 2021. The aggressive brand of cricket will be first step toward the projected goal.
Nepal’s first assignment toward the proposed goal will be fighting the same demons in Singapore that cost the qualification in ICC World Cup Qualifiers starting next month.
In July, Singapore defeated Nepal by 82 runs in the do-or-die match during the ICC World T20 Asia Regional Finals and advanced to the global qualifiers scheduled to be held in October in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Newcomers Kushal Malla and Ishan Pandey are included in the squad. The left-handed duo will make their debut for Nepal.
Veteran batsman Sharad Vesawkar and bowler Basant Regmi are rested whereas Vice-captain Gyanendra Malla took leave and was unavailable for the selection citing personal reasons.
Left-handed all-rounder Kushal impressed in the closed camp with his big hits, making him potentially an ideal player for T20 format. He can bowl left-arm spin too. An athletic fielder Kushal had been a regular in Nepal’s age-level teams U-16 and U-19. His most recent stint was the Asia Cup. He also played for Bhairahawa Gladiators which finished runner-up in the last season of Everest Premier League (EPL).
Similarly, the left-handed top-order batsman Pandey impressed during the Prime Minister Cup held earlier in the year. He top-scored for Province 3 skippered by national team captain Khadka.
Onus will be on Malla, Sarraf and Paudel, who rejoined the senior squad after completing the Asia Cup stint with the national U-19 team in Sri Lanka, to continue their good form at senior level.
Potentially, they are the new crop of stars for national team along with existing globetrotter Sandeep Lamichhane and Sompal Kami.
Lamichhane, who was involved in Caribbean Premier League for Barbados Tridents, joined the squad directly in Singapore. Left-arm spin duo of Lalit Rajbanshi and Susan Bhari completes the spin quota.
Zimbabwe: Sean Williams (captain), Regis Chakabva, Brian Chari, Richmond Mutumbami, Neville Madziva, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Tony Munyonga, Daniel Jakiel, Tendai Chatara, Richard Ngarava, Wellington Masakadza, William Mashinge, Peter Moor, Timycen Maruma, Craig Ervine