Slow pitch, rain ruin Dhangadhi Premier League's first halfWhen Kathmandu Goldens chased down a target of 133 runs against two-time defending champions Dhangadhi Stars in the tournament opener of the Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL) on February 11, the anticipation was all about batsmen ruling the game. But six days after the franchise competition began, the talk has been all about a slow Fapla pitch, string of low totals and weather.
When Kathmandu Goldens chased down a target of 133 runs against two-time defending champions Dhangadhi Stars in the tournament opener of the Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL) on February 11, the anticipation was all about batsmen ruling the game. But six days after the franchise competition began, the talk has been all about a slow Fapla pitch, string of low totals and weather.
In an unpredictable Fapla pitch, which was looked after by curators from Mumbai, batsmen have been struggling. Most of the teams have made spin as their major weapon, spinners leading the attack from the first over in almost every game is a clear example. The boundaries have become rare. The bowlers have become dominant in the powerplays and the slog overs confining the batsmen.
While the pitch has slowed down the scoring pace, weather has also played its part in ruining the game. The tournament was pushed back for two days due to rain and it returned on Thursday to wash out the match between Biratnagar Kings and Mahendranagar United. Although Friday was a rest day, Saturday’s both matches had to be abandoned as the ground was unplayable due to continuous rain. The overnight Friday rain can also effect Sunday’s matches.
After the opening day, there has been only match where both teams scored over 100 runs. The 134-5 that Goldens made against Mahendranagar United is so far the biggest total of the tournament. Defending champions hardly found the rhythm losing three back-to-back matches and Saturday’s wash out against Mahendranagar United has knocked them out from the tournament.
“The wicket is slow and its tough playing in this surface. But it all depends on batsman how he moulds his game in this pitch. If the batsman gets runs, it looks easy. We lost few early wickets forcing us to think the pitch was tough. But the middle order scored and it looked easy,” Stars skipper Sompal Kami had said after the first match.
Indian duo Sunny Patel and Jaykishan Kolsawala are two of the most successful foreign recruits in the Nepali domestic franchise leagues. Patel and Kolsawala are playing for CYC Attariya in the third edition of DPL. Kolsawala, who can both stick to the wicket and cut loose, said the wicket is bad its not completely unplayable. Leg spinner Patel considers himself lucky for being a slow bowler. “Any spinner can do well in this wicket. Specially it favours left arm spinners,” said Sunny.
Five out of six spinners currently leading the wicket taking chart with six victims are left arm spinners. United Arab Emirates (UAE) skipper Rohan Mustafa, who plays for Stars, is a right arm offspinner. He shares the top spot with Bhuwan Karki of Attariya, Avinash Yadav of Kings, Sagar Dhakal of United and Puneet Mehra of Rupandehi Challengers.
Goldens coach Raju Basnyat too blames the pitch for low scoring totals. “The pitch is helping the spinners with huge turn. We made 133 and 134 in the first two matches but considering the size of the ground and gravity of the competition, its not a good score. This ground should see scores over 160,” said Basnyat. “It looks like the batsmen are not able to acclimatise to the pitch. But its tough to get used to playing in this pitch because the turns are unusual making life difficult for batsmen,” added the former national team cricketer.
The tournament has seen three half centuries — from Ankit Dabas of Goldens, Amit Shrestha of Stars and Dipendra Singh Airee of Attariya. Basnet thought the pitch missed technicalities while it was laid.
“The organisers had given their all to make this wicket. They worked in this pitch for more than three months. But while making the wicket, I think they didn’t use appropriate soil and failed technically,” Basnyat said.
Although the foreign batsmen have failed to convert their starts, they have managed to play openly. Dabas had managed to forge a 76-run stand from 42 balls with Yogendra Singh Karki while making 65 runs.
Dabas is currently the leading run getter from two innings with 95 runs. Mehra had struck 46 against Challengers and Patel notched up unbeaten 35 against Stars. But Hong Kong international Babar Hayat has failed to play freely so far.
The success of foreign players has not amused national team opener and Goldens skipper Gyanendra Malla. “They (foreign players) definitely have better skill than we do. They have a different understand of the game because they play regularly. But still some of them are finding it difficult to survive here. This wicket demands both skill and experience,” said Malla.
Opening batting is one of the important aspects of the game. But to see the openers scoring half century in Nepali franchise cricket is rare. The failure of openers makes impact in the entire game. Shrestha had scored his half century while batting at No 3. Sunil Dhamala, Anil Kumar Sah — the two batsmen in comeback trail — along with current Twenty20 opener Pradeep Airee have so far failed in Fapla.
National team skipper Paras Khadka had opened for Nepal in the three-match Twenty20 International Series against the UAE. But Khadka has been an absentee this season due to personal engagements. Dhangadhi saw clear sky on Saturday and the participating teams are expecting the Fapla pitch to change its nature as well.