Nepali cricket team returned home after winning historic ICC World Cricket League Division 3 title in Bermuda. Euphoric cricket fans back home wanted to give heroic welcome to the team that ensured our chance to play in World Cup qualifier, which will be held in New Zealand early next year. I was also part of the crowd that went to Tribhuwan International Airport, to welcome the cricketers. The Jubilant fans with National flags and slogans written on placards and banners were continuously chanting as they waited for cricketers to come out of the terminal. Cricket fans as well as reporters, photo journalists and relatives of the cricketers flocked the arrival section of TIA.
The slogans from the fans caught my attention first. Slogans were not like rehearsed ones praising Nepali cricket team or Nepal, some of them were personal praises for skipper Paras Khadka and Coach Pubudu Dassanayake. As if those were not enough, the fans were demanding citizenship for cricketer Sharad Veshwakar, who has yet to get the certificate despite being a part of the national team for around a decade. Some fans were angry with All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa. There were rants against him too. Later I found out that they were angry with Mr. Thapa, for apparently saying that Nepal’s qualification for World Cup qualifier was akin to Nepal Football Team playing in AFC Cup.
The team had travelled for 26 hours out of last 48 hours, since leaving Bermuda. They had stopovers in London and Delhi, before landing in Kathmandu. The players looked tired and sleepy when they came out of the airport around 9:30 in the morning. And then we witnessed the reception organized by Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). Led by Panche Baja (combination of ethnic Nepali folk instruments), cricketers were having tough time getting inside the vehicle. Everybody wanted to shake hands with their heroes and get autographs and photographs. And the problem was, they were pushing the players around to get it. Fans coming there and trying to come close to their heroes was expected. But CAN officials and police personnel were doing next to nothing about it. Overjoyed crowd carried skipper Paras Khadka on their shoulders and were tossing him in air. Imagine what could have happened if crowd went beyond control. Nepali cricketers had a tough time putting their baggage into the bus. After chaos for around 30 minutes outside the airport terminal, cricketers managed to climb in to a victory parade truck and the procession began.
One look at the vehicle that was to carry our cricketers on a victory rally, I blushed. It was a mini truck used to carry sand, bricks and other construction materials. Garlands were draped around the truck, but the truck had enough evidence to show what it carried on other days. It is beyond my imagination how you can use a vehicle with remains of bricks and sand for a victory parade of the players that brought us the biggest title in cricket yet. Nobody could think that the truck can be washed by spraying some water on it.
The comedy of errors didn’t stop there. After a long long flight, players were paraded around the city and then felicitation programs began. First at National Sports Council, Tripureshwor, then Prime Minister’s Office, Singhadarbur and finally at Unified Maoists Office, Paris Danda. Too many places for a day? Wait a minute. Sports minister, Sports Council Member Secretary, CAN president and Maoist president and some others also gave speeches honoring players and talking about their love for the game. They also promised cash prizes but no one thought of a lunch break or some rest to the hungry and tired players. Or did they think cricketers don’t need rest and food as others do?
These managerial blunders could’ve been avoided if planned properly. A player said it would’ve been lot better if the felicitation programs were held one day later. Anyone listening?