A 23-member cricket team, including 18 players, left Kathmandu on Monday for a practice tour to Mumbai, India as Nepali national team is preparing for the upcoming ICC World T20 Qualifiers to be held in the UAE on March.

Nepali team, led by Coach Pubudu Dassanayake and Captain Paras Khadka, will play six T20 matches and two 50-over matches in Mumbai during the tour. The tam will reach Bhairahawa by road and take train to reach Mumbai on February 2.

Nepali team will take on Cricket Club of India (CCI) in a T20 match on February 4 and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust on February 5. Nepali team will lock horns with Nerul Gymkhana in a 50-over match on February 6 and Khadka’s boys will face DY Patil Club in a T20 match on February 7.

Islam Gymkhana will host Nepali team next morning in a 50-over match. On February 9 and 10, Nepal will get Police Gym Club and Dilip Vensarkar Cricket Academy respectively in T20 matches.

February 11 will be a rest day for the team while Nepali team will take on Thana District team in a T20 match on February 12 before returning to Kathmandu.

“I’m in touch with some Scottish and English players training in Pune, India. I’m expecting a T20 match against a combined team of those players on February 3. However, it is yet to be finalized,” said Coach Dassanayake.

Significance of the tour

TB Shah, the First Vice President of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), said that the Mumbai-tour is the first step taken by the association in the direction of giving match exposure to the players of national team.

“This is the first step taken by CAN to provide practice matches to our players on different ground, weather and crowd conditions as well as against better opponents,” said Shah.

For national team coach Dassanayake, the Mumbai-tour is an opportunity to find proper mixture of the national team.

“I’m not looking for big results in this tour. However, it could be a chance to build winning momentum and to identify our top five batsmen and top five bowlers,” said Dassanayake.

“Everybody in the team will get proper chance in the tour and I’ll try to find proper mixture of the team before the ICC World T20 Qualifiers,” he added.

Nepali skipper Khadka expects the tour to be a tough one. “I’m expecting tough opponents in the tour, which will expose our weaknesses,” said Khadka.

“After the tour we’ll have time to correct our weaknesses,” he added.

What is training plan after the tour?

According to Coach Dassanayake, he will start a closed camp training and fast bowling camp on parallel from February 16.

“We’ll spot our weaknesses during the tour and we’ll try to focus on our weaker areas in the closed camp training that will undergo for three weeks,” said Dassanayake.

“We are expecting ACC Development-Officer Rumesh Ratnayake to be here in Kathmandu by February 16 and the fast bowling camp will undergo side by side,” he added.

Dassanayake is also expecting at least two warm-up matches in the UAE. “We want to reach Dubai at least 3-4 days earlier of the tournament and have few warm-up matches,” he said.

According to skipper Paras Khadka, all the players will undergo fitness test before flying to Dubai.

What happened in the last 10 days?

The CAN announced 18-member squad for the Mumbai-tour on January 24 and it is the preliminary squad for the ICC World T20 Qualifiers.

After a round of fitness test and five practice matches, CAN has selected 18-member squad.

In the five practice matches, Pradeep Airee was on the top among the batsmen. Airee scored 138 runs in five matches facing altogether 130 balls. He remained unbeaten twice and scored with an average of 46.

Paresh Lohani was the second on the highest scorers’ list. He scored 134 runs in five matches facing altogether 152 balls with an average of 26.8.

Skipper Khadka scored 80 runs playing in four innings of the five practice matches. He is on the third position among the highest run getters but his average is 20 and his highest score is 25.

Among the bowlers, Basant Regmi remained on the top. He took eight wickets bowling 19.2 overs with the economy of 3.72. Binod Das took seven wickets bowling 14 overs with the economy of 5.92.

Rahul Vishwakarma claimed six wickets in the five practice matches. He bowled 14 overs during the practice matches with the economy of 6.35.

However, Das is not included in the team touring to Mumbai.

Team Combination

The team touring Mumbai includes Paresh Lohani but excludes Binod Das. This is the first time in almost 13 years that Das was not considered for a team he is qualified to play for while Lohani had pulled out his name from the team for the Pepsi World Cricket League Division 5 held in Kathmandu in February 2010 citing personal reasons. Lohani hadn’t featured in the national team ever since.

“We’ve explained Binod (Das) about his exclusion. Amrit (Bhattarai) is our opening bowler and Krishna Karki is also well-shaped bowler against middle order. As we picked Amrit and Krishna in the team, we looked for an aggressive and young fast bowler and Avinash Karn fit there,” said Dassanayake.

“Binod (Das) is still a good option for us for 50-over format,” he added.

The other players in the 18-member squad are Gyanendra Malla, Prithu Baskota, Subash Khakurel, Basanta Regmi, Binod Bhandari, Sharad Vesawkar, Sanjam Regmi, Pradeep Airee, Shakti Gauchan, Rahul Vishwakarma, Anil Mandal, Mehboob Alam and Chandra Saud.

(Ed: The write-up appeared in Republica national daily, on 31st January, 2012)