January 25, 2019 08:25 AM NPT
By: Rajan Shah
Nepal national cricket team batting coach Umesh Patwal (second left) instructs the players during a training session at the ICC Academy Oval in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday, ahead of their bilateral series against the UAE scheduled to start on Friday. (Right) Nepal national cricket team captiain Paras Khadka (right) and the UAE national cricket team skipper Mohammad Naveed pose with the ANIB Challenge Series 2019 trophy. Photo Courtesy: Raman Shiwakoti
KATHMANDU, Jan 25: Nepal’s first ever full-fledged bilateral series tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can be a good opportunity to reinforce its One-Day International (ODI) status earned last year for four years. The selection of young players and improved performance by experienced players is the first step in that direction.
The news of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) hosting a live broadcast of all the matches- available on their social media- will help observers witness the progress made by both the teams in the recent time.
The series will answer the key question about Nepal cricket team’s complete transition in few years. The ANIB Challenge Series 2019 will help to understand if the selection of Bhim Sarki, Pawan Sarraf, Avinash Bohora and Sundeep Jora can be next set of Aarif Sheikh, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Dipendra Singh Airee and Sandeep Lamichhane.
An absence of the UAE’s regular captain Rohan Mustafa, middle order dependable batsman Rameez Shahzad and lead spinner Ahmed Raza provides a kind of leverage to try out new players against the fellow ODI nation.
Nevertheless, consistent players Shaiman Anwar, Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri and stand-in skipper Mohammad Naveed make them a strong force despite the absence of three important players.
The unavailable trio is hit by eight-week bans by ECB for tweeting criticism of the organizers of Emerging Teams Asia Cup last month. However, all three were part of the training squad.
The UAE head coach Dougie Brown describes the absence as an opportunity to expand the senior team’s player base. Similarly, Brown stated Nepal side as an up-and-coming force in global cricket.
The home conditions are going to help the home side especially the stroke-makers the UAE has in top order from young Suri to experienced Anwar. Nepal tends to struggle in batting wickets due to susceptible batting lineups in past which has been the norm for ICC academy cricket grounds.
Nepal skipper Paras Khadka stressed on improving in all three departments- batting, bowling and fielding – to be a formidable side rather than concentrating only on one aspect.
“We should stop this debate of whether we are bowling team or batting. We have to do well in all departments for better performance. That is the only way we will survive in ODI cricket. Batting won’t improve overnight. It is all about exposure and we will work hard to rectify it,” said Khadka before leaving to the UAE.
Nepal’s recent totals in one-day cricket matches include 221 versus Oman, 176 all out (48.5 overs) versus the UAE, 188 versus Malaysia in 30 overs per side match, 152/6 versus Singapore in 28.1 overs and 95 all out (37.5 overs) versus Hong Kong.
Nepal could only win two matches against Malaysia and Singapore and lost the opportunity to qualify for Asia Cup despite being one of the two favorites to do well in the qualifiers.
The UAE completed a one-sided victory on Nepal during recent ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers defeating by 78 runs in Malaysia. Both ODI nations failed to reach Asia Cup as the associates were represented by Hong Kong’s spirited performances in the main round.
Similarly, both sides shared a win and defeat each at the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia in February last year, and then faced each other again in preparation for the World Cup Qualifier. Nepal won the group game at the WCL in Windhoek, UAE then beat them in the final of that competition. Nepal beat the UAE again in the warm up match in Zimbabwe. Few years ago, both teams also shared the ACC Trophy in 2012, after the final was tied in a match played at Sharjah.
The most glaring stats regarding Nepal’s performances in the UAE remain the four back to back losses during the ICC World Cricket League Championships 2015-17. Nepal lost both matches in second round against Papua New Guinea in 2015 whereas and lost both matches against the UAE in 2017 during the seventh (last) round matches. All the matches were played in Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
All the Nepal matches against the UAE will be played in ICC Academy Oval, Dubai in this current tour.
Nepal called four uncapped players to feature against the UAE in an extended squad of 16 players. Middle order batsman Bhim Sarki, who was adjudged the best batsman in recent Manmohan Memorial Cup (MM Cup), played in one-day format, is the new batting hope for Nepal. He will be required to fill in the boots of experienced Sharad Vesawkar, who is missing the tour due to health reasons.
Similarly, off-spinning all-rounder Pawan Sarraf, who can open the batting as well if required, will look to emulate in similar role that injured Sagar Pun would have carried for the team. Sarraf played crucial role in Lalitpur Patriots’ Everest Premier League title winning campaign at the end of last year.
Likewise, Avinash Bohora and Sundeep Jora are likely T20 specialists for the latter stages of the series. Bohora is known for bowling Yorkers with a slingy action whereas Jora can bat at great strike rates after doing same for Patriots in EPL and Dhangadhi Blues in Pokhara Premier League.
Jora, Sarki and Sarraf had a good Youth Asia Cup and U-19 quadrangular one-day series in India last year. Sarraf is highly rated by Rohan Mustafa after observing the youngsters in Nepali premier leagues.
Nepal is travelling with part-time wicket-keepers Pradeep Airee and Binod Bhandari. The U-19 captain Aasif Sheikh is only regular wicket-keeper scoring some runs in domestic competitions but not enough to make the case for selections.
SQUADS UAE : Mohammed Naveed (captain), Mohamed Usman (vice-captain), Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri, Shaiman Anwar, Mohammed Boota, Ghulam Shabber, Imran Haider, Tahir Mughal, Amir Hayat, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed, Fahad Nawaz, Abdul Shakoor, Sultan Ahmed, CP Rizwan