For years, Nepali cricketers have watched international cricket at Sharjah and dreamt of playing there some day. Their dream has finally come true. The stage is set for the 3rd Asian Cricket Council trophy to take place in the capital of the United Arab Emirates 15-24 November. This particular ACC tourney is special because the two finalists will qualify for the next Asia Cup, involving Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. And the hope is Nepal will be one of them.
The ACC Trophy is also special for Nepali cricketers since it is the only international event in which cricketing babes like Nepal can take part. (Only those countries with full membership of the International Cricket Council/ICC are allowed to play one-day internationals/ODI. Nepal is still only an associate member of the ICC.) A good performance at this eight-nation tournament would take Nepali cricket to new heights. For after all, it was through the ACC tourney that Bangladesh got international recognition, and ultimately achieved the much-coveted Test status.
The national cricket team has been participating in the ACC Trophy for the last five years, but the performance so far has been nothing to write home about. Even the semi-finals have eluded them, and it has always the batting that let them down. Coach Arun Aryal says that Nepali batsmen don't have the temperament. "Since we don't play enough tournaments, our boys struggle when playing at the highest level," says the former national player.
The Nepali team now has the services of former Pakistani all-rounder Haroon Rashid, who as the country's chief cricket coach worked with the under-19 team for the World Cup earlier this year. Rashid is confident that his team is going to make it to the ACC final. "There is not much difference among Nepal, UAE, Malaysia and Hong Kong. But UAE will have an edge over the others playing on their home ground," says he.
In the bowling department, the selectors have chosen three spinners and two pacemen. "Since the pitch at Sharjah is a flat one, we thought it would be better to have more spinners," says Rashid. The bowling is going to be spearheaded by 19-year-old left-arm fast bowler Mehoob Alam. The team also has seven specialist batsmen and two wicket-keepers, but there are no genuine all-rounders. Opener Kiran Agrawal will be expected to provide a good start since he has it in him to play the anchorman. Providing support will be Dipendra Choudhary and Paras Lohani, both of whom have been among the runs of late.