-Harry Yadav /A Cricket Aficionado and ink slinger
-Sanjay Gautam /Cricket Enthusiast and freelencer
Omnipresent Nepalese fans have travelled from Bermuda’s beaches to Sri Lankan shores, Namibian desert to Dubai’s heat, kirtipur’s boulevard to Amsterdam’s allay to witness either Nepal participating in World Cricket league Division 5 or historical one day international series against Dutch.
Many cricket pundits has quoted that, fan following back in Himalayan Nation is bigger than many test nations, and indeed bigger mass of Nepalese fans has witnessed many ups and downs, victories and defeats both on and off the field of their national cricket team.
When the first time news of Asia cup qualifier busted out, long time dream of Nepalese fans to see their national team competing with bigger test nation like neighbour India and Pakistan was inches away.
But prayers and hopes of thirty millions shattered in a flash when hollow side of Nepal cricket was Naked in the bigger stage of cricketing fair for top associates from Asia.
Pre-tournament favourite Nepal side has to put tough fight up against like of division 3 side Singapore and Division 4 side Malaysia as they only managed to win those 2 matches out 5 of they have played in Malaysian soil.
Nepal began their preparation of Asia cup qualifier with close camp of one and half week in Tribhuvan University ground, kirtipur before they departed with 15 players to Sri Lanka for much needed match practice before main tournament. Team spent roughly 1 weak in Sri Lanka where they played three 50 overs matches with Sri Lankan first class club. Nepal secured victories over all three club in Sri Lanka and took flight of Malaysia just 3 days before the commencement of tournament. Nepal , along with other top 5 associates nation from Asia were participating in this qualifier in Malaysia to claim the lone spot of Asia cup staging in UAE from Next week.
This wasn’t first time ,Nepal competing in ACC tournament to get the ticket through the Asia Cup as Nepal has previously participated in ACC trophy in 2000 and 2006 in UAE and Malaysia respectively.
Nepal shut the door for themselves just one step ahead of qualifying in Prestigious tournament of Asian giant as both occasion they were knocked out in the semi final.
Here we present you summary of Nepal’s matches in Asia cup qualifier 2018
1 Nepal vs Oman
August 29 ,2018
Nepal -221/9 (50 overs)
Nepal lost the match by 7 wickets !
Oman, nation which is putting their big strides in cricketing world invited Nepal to bat first after wining the toss. Nepal who always suffers from the woes of batting played 61% dots in their innings to put the score of 224 in the board. Except Sagar pun who made 83 of 84 balls, rest of Nepal batting looked totally slime, up against pace of kaleemullah and Bilal khan. Defending that par score , Nepal’s bowling looked too ineffective to restrict Oman’s batting as khawar Ali single handed guided his side for 7 wickets victory. Khadka was the only lone bowler who had wicket in his name where two batters were run out.
2 Nepal vs UAE
UAE – 254/9 (50 overs)
Nepal –176/10 (48.5 overs)
Nepal lost the match by 78 runs !
This fixture was the third one day international match for the Nepal side after grabbing ODI status during Cricket world cup qualifier held earlier in this year in Zimbabwe. Wining the toss , Nepal invited UAE to bat in the Flat surface of kinrara Academy oval .UAE batters completely dominated the Nepal’s bowling in their innings though wickets are falling in one end ,maiden ODI fifty of chirag suri and adnan mufti guided the UAE towards decent score. Nepal’s bowling used to be strength back in other tournament, looked completely out of touch in first two matches of tournament as unit wasn’t able to stop the flow of runs and bagging the wicket in crucial time of match. Chasing the target of 255 , Nepal side was never seems to be in game as left arm orthodox Ahmed Raza completely bamboozled the Nepal innings taking 4 wickets. Khakurel was the lone fighter of the match as he registered his maiden fifty in the ODI records book. Yet again Nepal side played 65 % dots in their innings which is raising the question mark on the Nepal’s Cricket culture back in home.
3 Nepal vs Malaysia
Nepal- 188/7 (30 overs)
Malaysia-169/9 (30 overs)
Nepal won the match by 19 runs
Rain Delayed match between host Malaysia and Nepal side was played 30 overs per side. Host side wining the toss ,elected to field in the damp wicket of Bayuemas oval. Woes in the batting for Nepal continued up against division 4 side Malaysia as well , at once Nepal stripped 60 runs for the loss 5 wickets in 12.5 overs. Duo Dipendra singh Airee and Aarif sheikh recoverd the innings and put the decent score of 188 in the board. Aarif seikh played career best knock of 64 runs of 48 balls to rescue the Nepal innings. To restrict the Malaysian side below the target, Nepal bowlers shown the characters as they took wickets in regular intervals. Veteran left arm orthodox Basant Regmi bagged 3 wickets to flash the Malaysian side. Though Nepal won the match , but misery in batting was still questionable as batters played 51% dots in the whole innings.
4 Nepal vs Singapore
September 2 ,2018
Singapore- 151/10 (42 overs
Nepal- 152/6 (28.1 overs)
Nepal won the match by 4 wickets
After winning the toss division 3 side Singapore opted to bat first in the UKM Cricket oval, Bangi. Nepal bowling did enough to bundle out the Singapore innings for modest total of 151. Star leggie lamichane and young left arm orthodox Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi shared 6 wickets , bagging 3 wicket each. Nepal chased the target with loss of 6 wicket in 28.1 overs . 58% balls faced by Nepalese Batemans were accounted as dots to chase the target.
5 Nepal vs Hong kong
September 4, 2018
Nepal – 95/10 (37.5 overs)
Hong kong -96/7 (32.3 overs)
Nepal lost the match by 3 wickets !
Nepal was up against the familiar opponent Hong Kong for the last encounter of group stage. It was the must win match for the both side to capture the second spot in point table. For the Nepal, just wining the match wasn’t enough to qualify for the top two spot of point table as Nepal side was looking for big win to confirm the second dapple of point table. Winning the toss , Nepal decided to put run on the board. But Nepal batters were completely out played by the Hong kong seamers in the damp wicket of UKM Cricket oval, Bangi. Pace duo of Tanwir Afzal and Aizaz khan muddled the top orders where offie Eshan khan took 4 wickets to bundle out Nepal side for the 95 runs. Nepal batters played almost 79% dots in their innings where 18 runs from Aarif sheikh’s bat was the highest individual runs of Nepal’s inning. While defending modest total of 95 runs , Paras threw the new ball to the biggest weapon of Nepal bowling arsenal Sandeep lamichane. He didn’t disappointed the captain as he bowled the Christopher Carter in his fifth delivery of first over. He took second fifer in list A but couldn’t able to save the match as Anshuman Rath’s almost took Hong kong towards safe side. At the end Hong Kong comfortably registered 3 wickets win to claim the second spot of point table.
Here we come with our review why Nepal failed to perform as per the expectation !!
Cricket is a very cruel game. One day it will make you feel sky high and other day you are on devil ‘s land. 6 months ago everything were looking good for Nepalese team when they got ODI status, a horror tournament and nothing looking good in Nepalese team.
Here We are with what went wrong for Nepal side.
Batters Struggle against Pace bowling:
Nepal have lost 58% (excluding run outs ) of its wickets against fast bowlers in the tournament. Stats clearly shows how poor Nepalese batters are in handling fast bowling. We aren’t in a position to question their technique and temperament against swinging and bouncy balls but stat is enforcing us to do so.
Struggle against left arm spinners:
If your country have 5678… numbers of left arm spinners then this is a crime but these poor batters have committed this crime. Nepal lost 21.1%(excluding run outs ) of wickets against left arm spinners in tournament. So painful to digest the fact that every domestic team in your country, either be it is DPL team, EPL team or PM Cup team have roped 2 to 3 left arm spinners.
Fast bowlers inability to pick early wickets:
3 (1 against Malaysia and 2 against Singapore ) is the no. of wickets that Nepali pacers picked in the tournament in power play. Number clearly shows how disappointing Nepali pacers were in the tournament. They really lack art of picking early wickets.
Batting in power play:
Apart from building the inning, with only two fielders out outside the 30-yard circle a modern day opener should put the bad ball away for the boundaries but Nepali openers seems to belong from mars. They were busy in their own world to block the ball in whole tournament. Subash khakurel played all 5 matches but his final strike was well below 50.
Inability to rotate strike :
63% of balls were dots that Batters faced in whole tournament. Don’t you open your mouth and says what ? Taking single and Himalyan batters are looking two far ends of universe that can never meet each other.
Poor man management and defensive tactics :
Fast bowlers were not picking wickets then why not to use spinners in power play if you have bulk of them? Why so much insecurity in the team by changing the batting order in every match? why more preference to 1980s type of batter over a modern type?
After highlighting the problem of Nepal cricket team during qualifier, Every supporter must be wondering then what ‘s the solution ?
Probably easiest of question and most difficult to execute. Here we are putting the lights on the best possible way to improve the team performance in upcoming tournament.
1. Rather than playing practice matches against gully team, get 5 or 6 quality fast bowlers in our own home yard or bought few bowling machines and improve techniques and temperament of facing Pace bowling.
2. Apart from Regmi, all other batters are right handers. So left arm spinner ‘s natural variation is making the work difficult for batters. But Nepal already have bulk of left arm spinners, So facing more and more of them will automatically sort out this problem.
3. Stop commercial t20 league after every city and arrange one day or multiday tournament instead. This will improve batters ability to play long innings and strike rotation.
4. Let’s back the players position in team or even in the tournament and told them to express from ball one.
5. Come out with attacking plan rather than 1980s defensive one.
Even a big natural calamities brings a few positive things and Asia Cup Qualifier was no different for Nepal. Apart from the poor performance, some of the Positives side of Nepal in Asia Cup Qualifier are highlighted below.
Dipendra Singh Airee :
It has been just a year since he made his national team debut but had already got tag of “Mr . dependable” by crazy fan back home. He didn’t justify his tag in Asia cup qualifier completely but done enough to put money behind him for future. With 138 runs at an average of 27.6 ,he was highest run scorer for Nepal in the tournament. His ability to hit boundaries at will was most pleasing thing about him in the tournament.
Dual ability to anchor the inning and power hitting was most noticeable thing of former opening fast bowler and no.3 batsman of U19 team in the tournament. With 125 runs at an average of 41.6, he was second highest run scorer for tournament. Rather than these numbers his ability to make big partnership was biggest positive for Nepal in the tournament and evidence was 92 runs partnership with Sagar Pun against Oman and 101 runs partnership With Airee against Singapore.
On every next day, you see this teenage Nepalese sensation making headlines but such was the tournament for Nepal that his 14 wickets in 5 innings with economy rate well under 3(2.89) was a rooted news. His consistency to pick wickets and bowl well in the pressure conditions were another pain killer for Nepal.
Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi:
He didn’t play first three matches but bowled really well in power play when he rolled his arm in 4th match for the first time in the tournament. He picked up 3 wickets haul and was adjusted man of match. He looked very capable of doing the job what Mujeeb Ur Rahman has been doing for Afghanistan in power play.
After all, what’s Next ?
Asia Cup Qualifier is not the end of Nepali Cricket. They need to learn from their mistake for moving forward.
Not to forgot it is just 6 months since we got ODI status, we need to enjoy the status and play bilateral and triangular series against bigger nations more and more often. While Nepal should look after making the best possible team to defend ODI status in 2022 too because defending the status is tougher job than getting it, ask a PNG or Hong Kong fan.
while restructuring CAN will be the most important task in this few months to make cricketing activities smooth and sustainable in country.
Nepali cricket ‘s first goal will be to make best possible team for regional t20 qualifier and get into the final cut off of the world T20 2020, Australia.