Dream runThis is the time to thank Team Nepal for giving each of us a rare reason to jump for joy.
Even the gods seemed to be in favour of the Nepali national men’s cricket team on Thursday as they beat the UAE by nine runs on D/L method. Chasing an improbable target of 310 in 50 overs, they were tottering at 181 for the loss of five wickets at the end of the 31st over before the trio of Bhim Sharki (67), Aarif Sheikh (52) and Gulshan Jha (50*) came to Nepal’s miraculous rescue, sending the country into raptures. But even with their gritty knocks, the team could still have struggled to stitch together the remaining 52 runs had the game gone the distance. But then darkness descended on the Tribhuvan University cricket ground and Nepal was declared victorious at the end of the 44th over.
It has been a fulfilling couple of weeks for Nepali cricket. On March 2, the Under-19 men’s team qualified for the ICC U-19 men’s cricket World Cup. On March 12, the men’s senior team retained the ODI status, climbing up to the fourth position in the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 from the second-last position just a month ago. Nepali cricket fans can now dream of the improbable: Seeing the men in blue and red taking to the cricket fields of India in the 2023 ODI World Cup in October-November. Given the way the team has been playing over the past few months, you wouldn’t put it past them to make the cut by finishing in the Top Two of the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June-July. Again, improbable but by no means impossible.
Thursday’s victory has shown the agility of the Nepali cricket team. No less significant is the promise of the U-19 men’s team that is already in the world cup. The sheer confidence Nepal has shown in international cricket bears testimony to the country’s golden age in the sport. This has also to do with the dexterous work of the coaches—Jagat Tamata of the U-19 team and Monty Desai of the senior men’s team–who have given players the licence to ‘express themselves’ and back their natural strength. New senior team skipper Rohit Paudel is already showing good leadership skills. The future of Nepali cricket is undoubtedly bright.
With five world-class cricket teams in the neighbourhood–Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka—Nepal is in good company, and can improve its international cricket profile by emulating their success. For this, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) must work to provide better facilities to Nepali cricketers, including by increasing the number of regional games. The national cricket governing body has not been able to function fully due to internal tussles. It won’t be wrong to say Nepali cricketers have proven their mettle without much help from the state. The prodigies that they are, the cricketers stand to turn Nepal into a formidable cricketing country at par with our neighbours if they are better groomed. But irrespective of what happens in the future, this is the time to thank Team Nepal for giving each of us a rare reason to jump for joy. Kudos!