Police’s Lalit Rajbanshi receiving player of the tournament award and deducted Rs 50,000.
KATHMANDU, June 14: The third edition of Prime Minister (PM) Cup One-Day Cricket Tournament concluded with Nepal Police Club becoming the champion defeating Tribhuvan Army Club by four wickets in the final match played at the Tribhuvan University (TU) Cricket Ground in Kirtipur on June 8.
The marquee one-day cricket event was embroiled in controversy from the beginning. The organizers couldn’t kick start the event with much excitement due to repeated delays of the inauguration of the event. After that the quality of the matches was questioned as some matches were played in matting wickets. Then, the act of compromising prize moneys at the end of the tournament concluded it on a negative note. Thus the PM Cup started and ended with serious controversies.
The lost art of batting
Kushal Malla, a young prodigy, came into bat when Army had lost its sixth wicket for 107 runs on the board at 28.1 overs. Police’s Pawan Sarraf was on-song registering two soft dismissals of Hari Bahadur Chauhan and skipper Binod Bhandari for caught and bowled dismissals. If two nothing shots were not enough, Malla, the left handed batsman against right-handed off-spinner who was bowling round the wicket, opened the face of his bat and tried to guide a straight ball toward the third man or somewhere behind the slips. All he managed to do was get bowled out on his first delivery.
Army was soon dismissed for 125 runs and lost another PM Cup in second year succession. Army was the best batting team of the tournament which crossed 300 runs mark couple of days ago in the semifinal against Province 3.
The final match was the testimony of matches played during the only marquee one-day cricket event in the nation. Earlier, Police had bundled out Armed Police Force (APF) Club, the third departmental team of the 10-team tournament, for embarrassing 41 runs in the semifinal match. The likes of Sharad Vesawkar, Prithu Baskota, Sandeep Jora and Pradeep Airee could only muster 21 runs between them. More so, it lost first three wickets to Kushal Bhurtel. The rejuvenated right-arm pace bowler was learning leg-spins before the tournament and was not expecting to start with a new ball for his team.
A staggering 25 times, teams were bundled out before 50 overs. Only twice in total 23 matches, it lasted for full 100 overs. For seven times, teams failed to even cross 100 runs mark whereas for 16 times teams were not able to cross 125 runs mark. Three centuries were made, 24 half-centuries in contrast to bowlers taking three wickets or more for 45 times including 11 four-wicket-hauls and 8 five-wicket-hauls.
The tournament showed Nepal’s batting struggle has hit a new low. The increasing T20 leagues and lack of long formats has started to take its toll. Nepal will have to protect its ODI status in three years’ time. To an extent that Basant Regmi, the veteran left-arm spinner and APF captain said that there is nothing wrong in the pitch after getting 41 all out in the semifinal against Police.
Nepal Police Club’s Kushal Bhurtel bowls out Armed Police Force Club’s Sumit Maharjan during the PM Cup One-Day Cricket Tournament in this recent file photo.
The selection dramas
Ever since the regions were restructured into provinces for the cricket team segregations, the tussle for representation of one’s district is at its prime. Karnali Province became the weakest with Banke and Bardia parting its alliance with already strong Province 5 which has Bhairahawa and Butwal. Likewise, provinces like 1 and 2 remain constantly degrading.
If the influence of Paras Khadka and Gyanendra Malla is taken away from Province 3, it has a pretty average team which might have struggled to win a single match. Gandkai Province was inconsistent whereas Province 5 fought well.
The selection hit hard to Sudur Paschim Province. It ditched two-time franchise leagues winner of the season-- Everest Premier League (EPL) 2018/19 and Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL) 2019-- Yogendra Singh Karki, highest-run scorer of last PM Cup Arun Airee, U-16/19 national team member Narayan Joshi, prodigy Subash Ayer, among others. Instead, it sent a team of new players under the captaincy of young Sher Malla in his second stint with the province.
Sudur Paschim did throw some exciting names in Khadak Bohora and Bikash Agri. Also, Malla did a commendable job, but a team with above missing names would have pushed for final four stage given the talent this province has in abundance. It is missing an administrative guidance, like every other province.
Similarly, Province 5 had omitted Bishal Bikram KC, who won the player of the series award in recently concluded ACC U-16 Eastern Region won by Nepal under his captaincy. Likewise, Sandeep Rajali, who was lauded for his batting techniques and confidence in both EPL and DPL, was left out as well. The reason given for both was poor form during the provincial selection games. Similarly, other provinces are stuck in a limbo of same faces over the years with no new players being introduced.
Even departmental team APF was struggling to put up a decent team before the tournament losing number of key players in Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Paudel, Sarraf, Anil Kumar Sah, etc to other teams. The reasons were allowances per tournament, which are further delayed, as opposed to monthly contract system followed by other departmental teams.
Binod Das, during his guest commentary stint, stressed on the importance of having a professional set up at provincial level to make sure none of the new prospects are lost to departmental teams for basic incomes for playing cricket.
The golden error
‘The Golden Era’ was the term self-proclaimed by National Sports Council (NSC) Member Secretary Keshav Kumar Bista to describe his tenure. However, everything suggests it is well far from it. The mockery of a national tournament like PM Cup was made after matting wickets were used to play at the Mulpani Cricket Stadium. A building structure still exists within boundary side due to long-pending land dispute.
The head coach of Police, the champion of PM Cup, Manoj Katwal immediately made his concerns public stating the playing conditions as negligence toward the career of young players and the below par arrangements that has pushed Nepali cricket 15 years back in history.
Likewise, the prize moneys which were promised to the players before the tournaments were compromised. NSC and Nepalaya International Pvt Ltd had committed to a motorbike for the player of the series, but later trimmed it to Rs 50,000. Also, the previously announced Rs 50,000 each for other individual awards, was reduced to Rs 30,000 on the aftermath of the tournament. Many described such gesture from the authorities as a ‘golden error’ instead.
Subash Pradhan, the managing director of Nepalaya, argued that the commitment was made in such a way that they could give the money in whichever way that is possible. Likewise, Bista agreed on the statement. Minister for Youth and Sports Jagat Bishwakarma remains unaware of the happenings around him despite being present in the final award ceremony. He just said he would look into the matter.
Not long ago, Bista was equally criticized for rushing the Eighth National Games which turned into a disaster as some participating players and athletes returned homes without receiving the awards. Likewise, a cash prize of mere Rs 1,000 was awarded for the men team events. Moreover no prize amount was even allocated for the women’s events in the same sports.
On conclusion, the different incidents in matter of weeks definitely don’t add up to the self-rehearsed title of ‘the golden era’ pinned by Bista himself.