Nepal has a mountain to climb to retain ODI status

The Nepal cricket team, that secured its maiden ODI victory this month, needs a domestic structure and an administrative setup for future glories.

Nepal has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council since 1988 and it has taken the country 30 years to earn itself an ODI status.   -  Getty Images

 

August 3 was a red letter day for Nepal Cricket as the Rhinos clinched a last-ball thriller to pocket their maiden ODI victory. Nepal defeated Netherlands in its own backyard at Amstelveen, levelling the series 1-1. And who better than skipper Paras Khadka himself to seal the victory?

With two runs required off the last ball, Dutch tail-ender Fred Klaasen hit the ball straight at the stumps at the bowler’s end. Bowler Khadka known for keeping his calm during tight situations, sprinted towards the ball as it ricocheted off the stumps towards him, picked it up and uprooted the woodwork.

Nepal celebrated as it became the seventh Asian team to win an ODI, but can it perform consistently?

'Afghanistan versus Nepal'

Nepal has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council since 1988 and it has taken the country 30 years to earn itself an ODI status, a Test status still in the far distance. Whereas, a war-stricken country like Afghanistan achieved Test status within 16 years. So what has curbed Nepal's growth?

READ| Nepal edges Netherlands by one run for first ODI win

Former Chief Executive of the now-suspended Cricket Association of Nepal, Bhawana Ghimire said, "Nepal lost ground as it failed to manage the success when compared to others since 2009, when Afghanistan and other associate nations started a professional setup.

“Afghanistan Government prioritised cricket as a national agenda and they were lucky to get professional people like Dr Hamid Shinwari, Dr. Noor Muhammad and Shafiq Stanikzai succeeding each other with a clear strategic vision. However, at such a crucial period, political interferences and different vested interests paralysed the administrative setup for which CAN is still under suspension," Bhawana added.

'Lack of an administrative setup'

In April 2016, CAN was indefinitely suspended by the ICC, on the grounds of government interference in its operations. Although the suspension did not affect the ability of Nepal to participate in ICC tournaments, the national team faced several issues.

Former Chief Executive of the now-suspended Cricket Association of Nepal, Bhawana Ghimire said, "Nepal lost ground as it failed to manage the success when compared to others since 2009."   -  TWITTER/@BhawanaCAN

 

Bhawana says, "It is obvious that without any prudent and visionary governing board no game can sustain and prosper. This has impacted the game at every level ranging from players' development and participation to coaching.”

At the moment, ICC is directly supporting Nepal to prepare for and participate in international matches.

'Financial setbacks'

The suspension of CAN by ICC not only cut down players' wages but also stalled the growth of domestic cricket in the country. But Bhawana says that these were issues only until last year when ICC decided to clear all the arrears.

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"After CAN’s suspension, ICC has been taking care of the allowances to the players during camps and international tours or matches. Although there are delays, they are getting paid. Hopefully, they will get this year's pay soon,” Bhawana said.

'The T20 Boom'

Private T20 leagues like the Everest Premier League have seen quite a good response and fanfare in Nepal, though domestic cricket in the country is close to being non-existent.

 

"You can see every district and city running after T20 leagues. Players are getting engaged, youth players getting exposures and the organisers following international league culture. Moreover all these are attracting sponsors,” said Bhawana.

“It is sad that all the leagues are being run by private entities. At the moment, our senior squad members might get confused over which domestic league to pursue," she added.

'The infrastructural dilemma'

There are hardly any stadiums with enough infrastructure to host international matches.

"Both the ICC and the Asian Cricket Council were interested to build an international cricket academy in Nepal,” said Bhawana.

"Our weather and topography is fantastic to host cricket for a period of nine months. Although we have no big stadiums, Mulpani Cricket Stadium phase I is in its final stage of construction and a few others are there in the pipeline," she strongly stated.

The ODI status’

Nepal’s ODI status stays for just four years if there is nothing much to show for it at the end of the given time. It needs to play more matches with the Sword of Damocles hanging over its head.

“There are discussions going on with full members and competing associated members both from ICC and local level. During my tenure at CAN, we succeeded in getting support from the BCCI. I am very happy that BCCI is still keen to support us. At the moment, reinstatement of the ICC membership is the major priority,” she signed off.

Nepal players engaged in a team talk during the T20 tournament match against Netherlands in July.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Nepal skipper Paras Khadka too concurs with Bhawana. He told Sportstar, "We have the talent to make it big in the future. (We) need a proper management to run cricket and back the players with adequate facilities and cricket will become big. The passion among fans and players is incredible. (We) need to put all of this into a proper structure and we could become a test playing country soon.”