It was a warm sunny day in Somerset, a village in northwest Bermuda, which was hosting the opening match of the World Cricket League Division Three championship on 28 April. Everyone expected pre-tournament favourites Nepal to trounce USA. Instead they lost by 94 runs. A day later the team was defeated by Uganda and fans back home started losing hope.
Consistent performances in the next three matches and a little bit of luck sent Nepal into the finals and also helped it earn a place in ICC’s World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand next year. Winning the championship was the ultimate icing on the cake. While tight bowling restricted old rivals Uganda to a modest total of 151, half centuries from Pradeep Airee and Sharad Vesawkar ensured a comfortable win with more than 10 overs to spare.
When the team took a victory lap through Kathmandu earlier this month, players were greeted by boisterous cheers from thousands of fans who had thronged the sidewalks. But as the euphoria of their outstanding success slowly wears off, the team must capitalise on the momentum and focus on the future.
CHAMPIONS IN THE MAKING: Spin bowler Basanta Regmi during a match with USA on 28 April and Pradeep Airee runs in to field the ball during the finals with Uganda on 5 May.
Up against vastly experienced and tougher opponents than the ones they faced in division three, the qualifying matches will be a hard battle for Nepal. However, the present infrastructure is simply not enough to train our cricketers to compete with world class players. And for all the hard work they put in, players earn a nominal salary of Rs 5,000.
Says General Secretary of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) Ashok Nath Pyakurel, “CAN does not have the resources to build a team that can compete with stronger nations. The Nepali government must come forward and support the team.” When asked why CAN does not increase player remuneration, Pyakurel explains that all the money that the association receives is spent on organising tournaments.
With training camps and friendly matches against India and Sri Lanka lined up, the national team has a busy eight months ahead as it prepares to take on nine other teams including Canada, Hong Kong, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda for the qualifiers. The top two teams from this tournament will then advance to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Yes we can
Interview with the captain of the national cricket team, Paras Khadka.
How did you feel when the team lost the first two matches of the tournament?
All the teams in division three were very similar, but we didn’t play well and lost two matches. We knew that every match after that was a do or die situation for us so we played with a lot of determination and with the country’s pride in mind.
Can Nepal make it to the 2015 World Cup?
I feel we are capable of making it to the World Cup, but it will all depend on our preparation.
What kind of preparation will the team require?
We won this tournament and received a lot of admiration and love from the public, but that is not going to be enough to win the next tournament. The players have always given their 100 per cent and are fully committed. But to make it to the World Cup, we need regular training, play friendly matches with higher ranked countries, better facilities, and a strong management. CAN has to get behind us with all its energy and resources.
How do you assess your opponents in the qualifying round?
The teams that we will play against in 2014 are much stronger and better trained than those we met in division three. We can still win, but we will have to work and train very hard in these eight months.