Members of U-19 national cricket team pose for a photo during a farewell program in Naxal, Kathmandu on Monday before leaving to Sri Lanka for the ACC U-19 Asia Cup.
KATHMANDU, Dec 13: Nepal's U-19 cricket team's head coach Binod Das has said that if Nepal plays up to its potential, it can challenge any team in the ACC U19 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.
“Nepal can compete with any team at this level. If we play up to our potential in Sri Lanka, we will be able to beat any team,” said Das, the former national team captain. “However, our primary target will be to reachthe second round,” he added.
The U-19 team is flying to Sri Lanka on Tuesday to take part in the ACC U19 Asia Cup which is scheduled for December 15 to 23.
Nepal is pitted in Group A alongside host Sri Lanka, defending champion India and Malaysia. Similarly, Group B consists of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Singapore. The teams securing top two positions in the round-robin league of the group stage will make it to the next round.
Nepal will kick off the tournament on December 15 facing Sri Lanka, led by Nepal's former national cricket coach Roy Luke Dias, at the Colombo Cricket Club Ground.
Similarly, Nepal will vie against another Test-playing nation India a day later while it will play against Malaysia on December 18.
“We have beaten teams like New Zealand and South Africa in the past. Why can't we beat India, Sri Lanka this time,” said Das, expressing his optimism.
However, Nepal hasn't registered victory over any Test-playing nation in this tournament so far. Nepal had been defeated in the group stage by India and Pakistan in the last two editions. Nepal had failed to progress to the second round of the tournament in 2012 and 2014.
The Nepali squad of 15 players selected from the talent hunt held in different parts of the country trained for 15 days at Tribhuvan University International Cricket Ground as the preparation for the age-group tournament.
“Yes our opponents are better equipped and have better system but talent wise we are not less than them. In the short period we got for preparation, we have become ready to kick off the tournament in a positive note,” added Das.
During the training, the team focused on practice matches in order to make the players ready for the tournament. “We had less training time so we didn't touch technical part.
However, we chose practice matches in order to make the players ready,” said Das.
Nepali team played 10 practice matches including four against the domestic sides Tribhuvan Army Club and Nepal Police Club.
When asked about the strength of the team, head coach Das said that every aspect of the team is equally strong. “Our batting has improved, we probably have stronger batting lineup than the previous U-19 teams. Our fielding and balling is very good as ever,” said Das.
“We have variety of spinners, we have got four to five versatile batsmen who can either play as opener or fulfill the role of third or fourth order batsman,” added Das.
After retiring from 15 years of playing career on April 15, 2011, Das has served as assistant coach of different age-group teams and also as a bowling coach of the national team. This tournament is the first one that Das is leading the team as a full-fledge coach. However, he is not feeling any pressure.
“I have the experience of being captain of the national team. I have worked as bowling coach of the national team. My coaching experience has prevented me to come under pressure,” said Das.
“I am putting all of my experiences for the betterment of the players. I would be happy if I succeed to help these players for their development as they will be part of the national team in the future,” added Das.
Three players, including Sandeep Lamichhane, Dipendra Airee and Sandeep Sunar, are the most experienced players given their participation in the ICC U-19 World Cup held in Bangladesh earlier this year.
Sandeep, who returned to Nepal after training and playing local cricket tournament in Australia, has been appointed the captain. He believes that the team can deliver positive result.
“All the players are talented and have worked hard during the training. I think we are capable of reaching the semifinal of the tournament,” said Sandeep.
He also said that his stay in Australia has made him matured and that experience will come handy in Sri Lanka. “I am hopeful of using the things that I learned in Australia to help my team in Sri Lanka,” said Sandeep.
Meanwhile, National Sports Council Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista among others bade farewell to the team on Monday. The team will be leaving for Sri Lanka on Tuesday.