Sweet rendezvous in KandyAs our players rubbed shoulders with their idols, they showed they were more than fanboys on the crease.
For the longest time, Nepal remained just a tertiary character in the mise en scène of the cricketing world, hardly noticed by anyone. Even within South Asia, the unofficial capital of global cricket with five test-playing cricket teams—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan—Nepali cricket seemed to be somewhat of an amateurish endeavour rather than an actual chase for excellence. But on Monday evening, in their unprecedented rendezvous with one of the toughest opponents in the cricketing world, the Nepali men in blue showed that they had arrived, and with élan.
Having learnt a lesson or two from their drubbing at the hands of Pakistan the previous week, being wrapped up at 104 in just 23.4 overs, the Nepali men seemed determined to remain on the crease until the last over as they put up a valiant fight against mighty India. And they did just that—having begun with a solid, 65-run opening partnership between Aasif Sheikh and Kushal Bhurtel and noteworthy performances by Sompal Kami and Dipendra Singh Airee, giving the seventh-time Asia Cup winner India a reasonable 231-run target.
By the 48.1st over, when they got bowled out, the Nepalis had done enough to prove that they are not just an associate team playing for the self-fulfilling goals of swanta sukhaya but a formidable cricketing nation out there to give the best of the league a run for their money. Had the intermittent drizzle not played spoilsport, the match might have gotten much more interesting for the players and fans alike. But as it was brought down to 23 overs, the Indian side got a bit too unrelenting on Nepal in the second innings, with openers Shubhman Gill and Rohit Sharma chasing a re-adjusted target of 145 in 20.1 overs in class. And when cricket commentators and fans said Nepal had won hearts despite losing the game, it was more than just a euphemism. After all, the country does not even have a half-decent stadium for its players to practice, let alone organise top-level international games. As of now, Nepali cricket has prospered despite limited state support as the players are dedicated.
And it was not just the men who won accolades for their cricketing abilities on Monday. The Nepali women's team entered the semi-final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Asia Region Qualifier on Monday, proving Nepal’s all-round prowess in the game. Now that the cricketers have given us the games to be proud of, the government must reciprocate by providing them with the resources they need to grow. While A-grade male players earn Rs60,000 monthly, women of the same grade receive a measly Rs21,000. Such a meagre sum not only discourages the existing players but also those who would want to make cricket their career and passion in the future. We have seen enough games; it is time to work for these players’ well-being. The government has time and again promised to complete the Mulpani Cricket Stadium. Perhaps the most sensible thing it should do now is to inform the people what progress has been made so far after that announcement.