By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA
Looking back at 2018,cricket popularity in Nepal hit an all -time high,despite the suspension imposed on Cricket Association of Nepal by the International Cricket Council.
ICC suspension over Nepal continues
It has been more than two years, unfortunately, Nepal’s suspension remains intact.
There are no signs of Nepal getting reinstated into membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC), anytime soon.
ICC, however, was generous enough to let Nepal participate in international competitions,much to everyone’s relief.
Politics ruins Nepal cricket
The fact of the matter is, politics has ruined Nepal cricket for decades and sadly, there seems to be no end in sight.
Had Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN)been free of political interference and factionalism,no doubt, the sport would have thrived and moved in the right direction.
Cricket Association of Nepal a disaster
CAN has been a complete disaster when it comes to leadership, accountability, transparency and governance.
It is not surprising, because CAN has been run by a bunch of self-serving political operatives and unprofessionals for the most part.
I think we all agree that the biggest roadblock for Nepal cricket has been the administrative failure. In fact, the failure is systemic, thereby bringing the development of cricket to a stop on all fronts.
Also players have been left in the lurch and made to suffer considerably.It is very clear to everyone that Nepal cricket must get on the right track and change for the better,and,more importantly,the revival starts with CAN.
Having said that,foremost, it is imperative that the way the apex cricket body functioned/functions must change period.
CAN needs strong and effective leadership, and it has to be governed with integrity and in a responsible and accountable manner.
The working committee must consist of real professionals who understand cricket from inside and outside and are one hundred percent committed to their duties.
Players morale high
The good thing is that the current active players and young aspiring cricketers morale, enthusiasm and motivation to play the game and represent the country remains high,despite air of uncertainty.
On the field,they have showcased their talents and given absolutely everything,producing notable performances.
Historical ODI status
The national team had a hectic international schedule.They featured in major international competitions and gained the One Day International(ODI) status, by far the biggest and greatest achievement to date in the history of Nepal cricket.
Nepal reached the historical milestone defeating Papua New Guinea by six wickets in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier playoff,finishing 8th in Harare, Zimbabwe.
On top of that the success also ensured Nepal Twenty20 International status as well.
Prior to that Nepal advanced to the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier after finishing second behind the United Arab Emirates in the 2018 World Cricket League Division 2 held in Namibia.
First ODI win & Asia Cup disappointment
Overall, our cricketers stepped up to the African challenges and demands,delivering results in a big way.
Nepal led by all-rounder Paras Khadka made a fantastic start to their debut ODI two- match series against the Netherlands in Holland.
After losing the first match, Nepal bounced back, to square the series by winning the second,thus recording their first ODI success.
Nepal carried high expectations for success in the Asia Cup Qualifiers in Malaysia.They were expected to perform well and make it to the final round, but they were unable to repeat the form that saw them level the series against the Netherlands.
They were overcome with mediocrity, complacency and eventually crashed out of the competition, finishing fourth. Admittedly, it was a huge disappointment.
The ODI run getters were Dipendra Singh Airee,Sompal Kami, Paras Khadka, Subash Khakurel and Gyanendra Malla.
Likewise,Sandeep Lamichhane, Sompal Kami, Paras Khadka and Basanta Regmi were the leading wicket takers.
Given the current state of cricket in the country,it was a commendable effort and performance by the team.
They deserve a pat on the back for doing a great job.Certainly, they have proved themselves capable of being successful.
Advent of Twenty20 competition
On the domestic front, there was/is no dearth of competitions,especially the Twenty20, thanks largely to the private sector.
Like in any cricket starved nation,the Twenty20 competition popularity is on the rise in Nepal, drawing massive crowds and extensive media attention.
The advent of the Dhangadhi Premier League,Pokhara Premier League and Everest Premier League continue to make a big splash in Nepal cricket, though it is still very much in its infancy.
Franchises can make big difference
Apart from economic benefits ,the league has provided a very important platform for promising young cricketers and put Nepal on the map of global cricket.
With as many as 16 international players in action ,the 2018 Everest Premier League reached new heights.
Kudos to the franchises for investing on foreign players and making invaluable contributions to Nepal cricket.
They are aware that the level of cricket infrastructure in the country is woefully short, a key component impeding the development of the sport.
The franchises can play a bigger and meaningful role to help develop and grow cricket in the country.They should seriously consider building their own infrastructures and start talent hunt programs.
Skipper Khadka holds sway over Nepal cricket
Mr.Paras Khadka, the longest serving skipper of the national team continues to hold sway over cricket on and off the pitch.
He has proved himself to be a dynamic leader and done an outstanding job in motivating players and keeping the team together against all odds.
On the field, he stands tall for Nepal and is a pillar of the national team.His glittering career speaks for itself.
The team still needs his captaincy and leadership. He is far from finished and has many more years of competitive cricket ahead of him.
Most importantly for Nepal cricket, he has been a strong voice in favor of a clean, transparent and accountable CAN.
Veteran Shakti Gauchan Retires
At 34,veteran spin maestro Shakti Gauchan bid adieu to competitive cricket to end his glorious career.
The left -arm orthodox spinner played his farewell match for the Pokhara Rhinos in the Everest Premier League recently.
His final international match was against the Netherlands in the ODI series in the Netherlands.
Barely 16, promising Gauchan made his debut for the national squad in 2002 against Oman in the ACC Trophy,and he went on to hold his place in the team for 18 years.
The lanky Rupandehi resident made his foray into international cricket in 2001,following his selection to the Under-17 team for the Asia Cup.
2002 was a big year for Gauchan. First he was selected for the Under-19 to play in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. Then he made the ultimate breakthrough,a place in the national team.
Known for his deceptive, accurate and economical bowling, Gauchan was backbone of the bowling attack.
He was a class spinner and delivered his very best.He played virtually every year for the country in various international competitions.
He was on top of his game for the most part constantly picking up wickets. From 2012 to 2018 he featured in 69 matches(ODI, T20I, 1st class,List A and T20) and picked up 63 wickets .
His recording breaking feat (10-8-2-3) in the 2012 ICC World Cricket League Division Four, the best economical bowling spell ever in limited over internationals stands out.
He was the first Nepali cricketer to complete a hat-trick against Denmark in the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier in 2012.
Gauchan could bat as well and showcased his batting skills against Italy in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in 2005, slamming an undefeated 106.
His contributions to Nepal cricket has been immense.He will be greatly missed.
Phenomenal year for Sandeep Lamichhane
Sensational leg break googly specialist Sandeep Lamichhane had a phenomenal year. He was constantly under the spotlight for his sensational bowling performance .
The immensely talented youngster lived up to expectations and was at his very best. His stock rose dramatically and was in high demand.
He jetted around the globe playing in different Twenty20 international competitions.He played for Delhi Capitals in the IPL League(India) ,St.Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the CPL(West Indies), Montreal Tigers in the Global T20 (Canada), Sylhet Sixers in the BPL(Bangladesh),Melbourne Stars(Australia),Lahore Qalandars in the PSL(Pakistan) and Nangarhar Leopards in the APL(Afghanistan).
No doubt, the schedule was relentless but the young phenom showed no signs of slowing down one bit.
He put in a consistent and solid performance together wherever he played. With a whole career ahead of him, the youngster has the potential to scale heights of greatness.
The spinner needs to stay disciplined and razor focused on his goals, and he has to put in more hard work and effort.
Looking forward to 2019
I hope 2019 proves more fruitful, productive and memorable for Nepal cricket. I look forward to seeing the suspension over CAN lifted.
The national team will have plenty of challenges to overcome. They kick off the year with the United Arab Emirates(UAE) challenge.
They lock horns with the UAE in a three Match ODI series, followed by three T20 series in the UAE.
I want to see a rejuvenated and vastly improved Nepal ready for challenges.They should be focused on delivering a consistent performance in every department of the game.
The cricketers have to prove themselves in order to show what they are capable of on the world stage,once again.