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Planning called Cricket

By Somesh Verma

Cricket, despite being a non-contact sport, is also about fear. The fear of losing not counted as the main reason behind this.

One of the best sights in cricket is watching a fast bowler steaming in and hurling a ball as fast as he can, uprooting the stumps and letting the bails fly all over. Not only does it create a good sight, but it also sets in panic among the batsmen that have to come to the crease, after the fall of cricket. The fear it creates tantalizes the crowd, excites the fielders and ignites the TRP ratings.

Fast bowling does that to cricket. As a Nepali cricket fan, you always wished a Nepali player did something like that. Hardly did you get an opportunity.

But the start of ACC U-19 Elite Cup was different. We had a man from the remote district of Achham, running in hard a making a dream debut. Yagyaman Kumal, took three Kuwait wickets in a ziffy. At one point, he had taken 3 wickets without giving any run. The spell – which wrecked the early middle order – put Kuwait on the back foot from where it could hardly push itself for a win.

That must have made Pubudu Dassanayake, Nepal’s head coach, proud. He’s often talked about the need to have a tearaway fast bowlers, who could put fear of God in opposition batsmen, and push them ‘on the back foot’.

Brett Lee, while talking about how to bowl fast, had said, “It’s all about rhythm. And angles. And staying fit and getting your body to click.”

It is difficult to know if Kumal has learnt the art of bowling fast, as Brett Lee puts it. But you know that he’s had a start to his career better than any other Nepali bowler has ever had. And it is heartening to know that this flash of brilliance hasn’t come about just like that.  There has been planning behind it, even if the planning wasn’t elaborate.

Last year, Dassanayake was told by some of the players from far western Nepal (Pradip Airee and Naresh Budhayer) about a bowler who bowled quick. Dassanayake fast tracked Kumal into the list of probables for the national team that was to play in ICC World Cricket League Division 4. Although he did not make it to the final squad, the experience of being in the team must have helped the lad. Shows what a little planning can do. It doesn’t ensure that Kumal will become the best bowler Nepal has ever had, but at least he’s got a headstart.

Alas, if only there were plans that run the cricket association. The lack of it is visible in the latest U-19 squad sent for ACC U-19 Elite Cup. Age-group teams are supposed to be ladder, where players graduate from U-16 to U-19 to senior team. But if you have a look at Nepali team for ACC U-16 Elite Cup 2010, there is only one player – Nischal Pandey – who’s made a cut in the U-19 team of now. Question arises: What happened to the rest? Were they taken care of at all, after the tournament of 2010 got over?

This year, Biratnagar won the U-19 national championship. But, none of the players from the team could find a seat in the Malaysia-bound flight. Some other names that had impressed last year at the U-16 Elite Cup, like Akash Bishta and Kalicharan Yadav, could not find themselves in the team. Kalicharan’s name deserves a special mention because he took a hat-trick in the semi-final of the championship.

If you take a look at the present national cricket team, except for one exception – Binod Bhandari – everybody has graduated from age-group teams. Paras Khadka, Sharad Vesawkar, Gyanendra Malla, Shakti Gauchan, you name it, everyone went in to the feeder teams, before entering the national squad. This explains why Nepali team has looked more or less stable in past half a decade or so.

This U-19 team has been hailed as ‘generation change’. All well and good, as long as it brings results. But, a believer in process-gives-right-results would ask: Who’s selecting Nepali team? Or is there any team selecting it?

Ed: This write-up appeared in The Kathmandu Post on 4th May, 2013

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