Our batting is not up to the mark for ODIs: Skipper Gyanendra Malla

Published On: November 28, 2019 08:47 AM NPT By: Rajan Shah

KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Nepal national cricket team is preparing for the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) with a realistic chance of winning its first gold ever, as the Asian heavyweights India and Pakistan withdrew their participation in the event to be held from December 1 to 10 at TU Cricket Ground in Kathmandu.

Current captain Gyanendra Malla, who replaced Paras Khadka last month, sees it as an opportunity to increase Nepal’s medal tally. At the same time, he rues that the team would miss good matches against the top sides.

“There are two ways to look at the absence of India and Pakistan in the SAG. As a team who wants to win gold, we strive to beat the best ones. So, on the matter of exposure it is a loss for us. But on count of the medal tally, their absence is an advantage,” said Malla in conversation with Republica.

He is relishing the role as a captain after getting full support of the dressing room. “It is just that the role is changed, but the responsibilities are the same. We are playing for Nepal. As a vice or regular captain, we always look to do best for the team,” he added.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Nepal team has tried different players in recent days; for example, Ishan Pandey in Singapore and Kushal Bhurtel in Bangladesh. Doesn't the frequent chop and change unsettle youngsters?
Players don’t get unsettled. Players get international exposure. Whoever we try they know their role or at the worst, their limitations. Results are not going our way but they are gaining experiences. We also need to have strength in the bench. We need as many ‘players up for the task’ as possible. Upcoming qualifiers, ODI cycle is very important for us. We need to have a pool of players to choose from. We won’t know them until and unless we try them.

Rohit Paudel started the wave of young batsmen in the squad. However, he is struggling to find a place in the XI. Meanwhile, many other young batsmen were tried. How does it affect team balance?
We are looking at different players for different formats. Rohit (Paudel) knows what we want from him. He is working equally hard to deliver whenever the opportunity arises. We talk to him on a daily basis. Previously, we used to have a squad or pool of 14 or 15 players only. Now, we have a bigger one. We are trying to develop cricketing sense, minimize mistakes, and so on. But unfortunately, results don’t go our way. And it comes back to haunt us. We all know that we play tournaments after certain intervals. Hence, we try to carry in-form batsmen at given time, but when we don’t deliver everything looks bland.

Sompal (Kami) has time and again proven his batting credentials for Nepal. His stats don’t lie as well. Despite the team's batting struggles, he is hinged at lower order. Is Nepal team missing out on getting the best out of him?
Sompal (Kami) has always been an all-round talent for us. We don’t think Sompal is adept for top order yet. In future, he may bat in top order but we already have three seam bowling all-rounders in our XI (Karan KC and Paras Khadka). Our bowling is already a stronger facet. We need batsmen. And to do that, we need to give them (batsmen) as much exposure as possible.
To regain form, Nepali batsmen have to wait for events or tournaments. There is no room to relax for our batsmen. In-form or out-of-form, we are supposed to sort our problems on the match day. We don’t play cricket for months. And suddenly, we have to deliver on a given day. We also know our batting is not up to the mark for ODIs. We need a lot of work.

There have been concerns that certain players are preferred to others. Critics say high run-getters and specialist role players doing well in domestic leagues are overlooked. Is it the case?
We need to look at all the variances. How a player has fared in a certain situation, against a certain opposition, and under certain circumstances -- all that come down to the selection decisions. We normally count runs, but we also need to look at all other aspects. Batting is not the only issue sometimes. Sense, attitude, fitness, etc all are equally important. Current standards for the national team are different from yesteryears. We are setting a bar which needs to be met to tick all the boxes for selection.

Do you think the ticket-rates for SAG cricket games are high for fans?
I understand that cricket in Nepal still hasn't seen a culture of gate-money. 
But current pricing (Rs 200 for league stage and Rs 500 for semis and final) definitely are at the higher side. It may or may not be adjusted but I am sure that the decision must have been in fans’ best interest. 
We, as players, need fans and their support. It is always a great sight for us when they come in high numbers. 

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