Khadka to continue to open for Nepal in Twenty20 InternationalsThe two Asia Regional Qualifiers preparing teams are playing a two-match bilateral series from Saturday
National team skipper will continue to open the innings when Nepal and Malaysia lock horns for the first ever Twenty20 International between the Associate nations in a two-match series that begins from Saturday at the Kinrara Oval.
Nepal and Malaysia are currently preparing for the upcoming ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Regional Qualifier slated for July 20-28 in Singapore. The Nepali team is currently in the Malaysian capital and the two Twenty20 Internationals come as part of their preparation to fine tune their performance ahead of the Qualifiers.
Although the two teams have met multiple times before in the ACC Twenty20 Cup in the past, this will be the first Twenty20 International between them after the International Cricket Council granted T20I status to all the matches played between any cricket playing nation. Nepal are playing their first T20I after their 2-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates in February this year.
It was in the UAE where Khadka had opened for Nepal in a bid to seek remedy for their opening woes following continues failures of different combinations. Despite Khadka opening, Nepal still didn't get the best of the start in Dubai after his two opening partners — Pradeep Airee and Pawan Sarraf — and himself got out for ducks in the first overs.
Khadka, however, got modest starts in the two matches making 25 and 29 in the first and third games. "I opened in the last series, so hopefully we will see how it goes. This is what we have come to in terms and the coach (Umesh Patwal) believes I can do it. So yes, I will be opening," Khadka told the Post from Kuala Lumpur.
Since the series is expected to be a one-sided affair as Nepal's 11th position in the ICC Twenty20 International rankings is way above than Malaysia's 35th, the two matches will give the visitors an opportunity to experiment their playing XI. "More than experiment, it will be good to play a couple of T20Is before the Qualifiers. It will help us to strategise how to go about things and the players we are really looking to fit in," added the skipper.
Nepal have left for Malaysia with a 14-man squad but middle order batsman Dipendra Singh Airee is certain to lose the bilateral series as he is recovering from the finger injury he sustained during the Prime Minister Cup One Day National final on June 9. "We are trying to protect him as much as possible. May be we will unleash him depending on how fit he gets. The doctors are looking into him. We are most likely looking forward to see him in the Qualifiers," informed Khadka.
Khadka is likely to open with Airee or Sarraf as both the players have played with grit in recent tournament. Sarraf is highly tipped for the first game since he is fresh from playing in Malaysia in the ACC U-19 Eastern Region tournament where he made brisk starts for the title winning youth team in all four matches they played till the final.
One-day opener Gyanendra Malla will continue to bat at No 3 followed by returning Sharad Vesawkar, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Binod Bhandari, Sompal Kami and Karan KC in what looks a long batting order. But considering the situation, any of the two between KC and Kami can also be promoted up the order. Leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane will continue to lead a strong spin attack which will see a tough competition between emerging left armer Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi and veteran Basanta Regmi. Abinash Bohora, who ended up as player-of-the-tournament in Twenty20 Internationals in UAE, is expected to be picked up for his death bowling exploits.
The five-team Asia Regional Qualifiers in Singapore will send only the table toppers into the Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifiers to be held in the UAE in October and November. Hosts Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar are the three other teams in the Asia Regional Qualifiers where Nepal are the firm favourites.