Former Nepal national cricket team head coach Jagat Tamata (center) observes the matting wickets prior to the start of the Prime Minister Cup one-day cricket tournament at the Mulpani Cricket Stadium in Mulpani, Kathmandu in this recent photo.
KATHMANDU, June 4: The first of the two semifinals in the ongoing Prime Minister Cup One-Day Cricket Tournament (PM Cup) is set to start Wednesday at Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground in Kirtipur. Province 3 led by Paras Khadka is set to face Tribhuvan Army Club in the first match, and Nepal Police Club and Armed Police Force Club will clash on Thursday to finalize the two finalists of the third edition of the marquee 50-over event.
The proceedings have not been as smooth as expected. PM Cup has already had its own share of controversy throughout. The controversies were somewhat subdued due to the brightness and brilliance of the cricket played at Kirtipur’s cricket ground.
PM Cup started with much fanfare and great expectations as it was the only 50-over tournament in the calendar year. Moreover, the tournament would be an event for the unveiling of the Mulpani Cricket Stadium since its construction 12-13 years ago.
The event got into controversy after hosting a match between Karnali Province and Nepal Police Club on matting wickets as the pitch was not prepared well despite several delays.
“These tournaments are big opportunities for young and aspiring cricketers, but it seems that they are being held just for the sake of formality. You can’t risk the careers of young cricketers,” lambasted ManojKatuwal, the former national cricket player and head coach of Nepal Police Club.
The Member Secretary of National Sports Council (NSC), Keshav Kumar Bista had given the green signal to host matches although the playing conditions were not perfect.
Land dispute still unsettled
Despite several claims made by National Sports Council (NSC) over the years, the Mulpani Cricket Stadium’s land dispute remains as it is with locals still residing within the ground. The match between Karnali Province and Nepal Police Club was played on the ground in Mulpani on Sunday with shortened boundary lines, which included an adjacent house along with the ground.
Although several families were moved from the area, two families are still residing at the stadium premises. The two families had accepted to exchange their land for an alternative land provided by the government in the locality. However, they are yet to relocate themselves from the area due to various reasons.
Member Secretary Bista had claimed that families will be moved within a few days. Although the opening match between the two teams -- Karnali Province and Nepal Police Club -- was played on Sunday despite the existing conditions, the completion of the under-construction ground remains uncertain due to the land acquisition issue.
Sumit Mahajan continued his growth starting the tournament with 94 runs against Province 3. He missed his debut century by six runs. Province 3’s teenage left-arm spinner Surya Tamang has won two player-of-the-match awards in four matches. SudurPaschim Province opening batsman KhadakBohora impressed on his debut outing putting up consistent runs throughout the league stage. The same province’s right-arm fast bowler BikashAagri showed rare talent and skill of moving the ball late during his delivery. His pinpoint in-swingers have troubled the best of opposite batsmen including Province 3 and national team skipper Paras Khadka, whom he dismissed.
Likewise, Gandaki Province’s Anil Gurung scored the third century of the tournament against Province 5. Apart from them, experienced and consistently successful cricketers at domestic cricket continued their dominance with match-winning knocks. Raju Rijal found golden form for Tribhuvan Army Club. Province 5’s Anil Kharel has rejuvenated his dwindling career. Amit Shrestha for Nepal Police Cub registered his third domestic century and Saurav Khanal of Province 5 scored 92 runs to take his team home in a nail-biting finish on Monday against Gandaki.
Police Club’s KushalBhurtel, Province 2’s Suraj Patel, DivyanshuMallick, Kumar Thapa, Province 1’s Rajan Magar, Karnali Province’s Sudan Pokharel, LalitPyakurel, etc all impressed in patches. Conclusively, the PM Cup matches have been helpful to identify new talents despite the shortcomings and challenges at domestic level.