Pubudu - the magic word for Associate Nations

As Nepal prepares for the ICC World Cup Qualifier in March, former coach Pubudu Dassanayake remembers his boys as a dedicated group.

Former Sri Lankan cricketer Pubudu Dassanayake became a renowned coach among Associate Nations for his urge to blur the word ‘minnows’.   -  FACEBOOK/PUBUDU DASSANAYAKE

Former Sri Lankan cricketer Pubudu Dassanayake became a renowned coach among Associate Nations for his urge to blur the word ‘minnows’.

Under his watch (2007-2011), Canada qualified for its third straight World Cup. In his next stint, he escalated Nepal’s fortunes — guiding the side to Divison One from Division Four of the World Cricket League (WCL) followed by a maiden berth in an ICC tournament (the World T20) in 2014.

Spotting talent in Nepal

This year, Nepal had another slice of fame when 17-year-old Sandeep Lamichhane made history at the Indian Premier League auction. He became the first cricketer from the South Asian nation to sign up for a franchise in India’s premier T20 competition.

Delhi Daredevils snapped him up for his base price of Rs. 20 lakh, and Dassanayake — credited for spotting the talent in Lamichhane — is stoked to see ‘what the leg-spinner has accomplished now’.

IPL auctions: First player from Nepal, Sandeep Lamichhane makes cut

“I saw Sandeep first time when I was driving to the wedding of Basant Regmi, current Nepal national player," the 47-year-old told Sportstar.

“It was a six-hour drive from Kathmandu and half-way, we decided to stay the night in a place call Chitwan. And some of the local cricket administrators got to know that the head coach is in town and invited me to see a few players from the area.

“At this net session, I saw Sandeep when he was 15. I straight away invited him to the U-19 national squad," he reminisced. Lamichhane went on to make an instant impact at the U-19 World Cup in 2016, where he claimed a hat-trick against Ireland.

Dassanayake lauded Nepal for sailing into the World Cup qualifiers, to be held in Zimbabwe in March. "Nepal cricket is always going to be in my heart. It is every coach's dream to have such hard-working players in the group. All these achievements they had in the last few years is due to the dedication of this group," he noted.

Vision USA

At the helm of USA national team now, Dassanayake remains optimistic about future of cricket in the country despite failing to make it to the World Cup qualifiers.

“Even though we would've liked to have a go at the WC Qualifier, not performing in the World Cricket League Division 3 gave us time to rebuild and set the standards of USA Cricket.

“We have re-structured the national squad and it looks stronger than ever. We are on the right path to qualify through Division 3 and T20 Qualifier," he said.

But in a country known for its prowess in NFL and baseball, how does the management plan to engage children without a national affinity for cricket?

“We are close to finalising the new USA Cricket national entry level program which has been designed to attract children to the sport they might not know much about.

“This will launch in April and play a crucial role expanding the cricket pathway,” he said before adding, “Our current plan is to bring the team to the next round of WCL Division 1. We need experience and seasoned players to achieve this quite bullish target initially.

“At the same time, we have identified various young talents who are capable of making it to the national squad soon. I hope in two to three years time, we will have a full home-grown team.”