Division 3 mania has toned down after numerous ‘felicitations’ that Nepali team received in past few weeks. The ‘felicitations’ have continued though, after Nepali team came back home, with the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 title, but the frequency is lower. If you ignore the first day’s unorganized felicitation program, Nepali team has been the most successful ever, in receiving cash felicitations. If you add 350 thousand rupees announced by the government – but yet to actually hand over – every Nepali cricketer from that team has become richer by half a million rupees.
Yet again, there has been a repeat of immediate brouhaha following the title win and who-cares attitude some days after initial noise, just like in the past. Those who wanted to improve upon their profile by associating with the winning team are now far away from division 3 mania. They have also bookmarked their calendar, to be associated with the team, in case the team comes back with an entry ticket to the World Cup. That will begin another mania. In between, the condition is likely to be same, status quo.
The success of the team three weeks ago took Nepal to World Cup qualifiers. Nepal has been dreaming of playing in the world cup for past 17 years, although practically not much has happened in these years. When Team Nepal went to Canada to play ICC Trophy in 2001, the world cup dream looked possible, despite the fact that the road to world cup was almost impossible – if you looked at whom Nepal had to play in the tournament. Namibia beat Nepal then and got to play World Cup.
The difference is, this time around Nepal’s world cup possibilities are nearer. But practically, the journey is difficult, like in the past. If Nepal doesn’t prepare properly, the opportunity will be lost. Nepal should have a goal to finish at least among the top four countries in the 10-nation World Cup qualiifers, to be played in New Zealand, and get an ODI status. Apart from Uganda, the countries playing in the qualifiers are ranked above Nepal. Nepal had almost ruined their chances in Division 3, after losing to Uganda.
“This is the most players could do, now there has to be proper planning and move ahead strategically,” Skipper Paras Khadka’s expression right after returning home explains a lot about Nepali cricket. The major reason for success in recent past is attributed to players and coach Pubudu Dassanayake. Now the onus is on Cricket Association of Nepal, to plan and formulate strategies.
After ACC T20 Cup, two months ago, Paras had said, “Rather than saying Nepali cricket’s standards have gone up after wins in 1-2 matches or a tournament, it is important to think what kind of preparation is needed to play in the upper level. That’s why preparation has to be good. We have to play with better teams to prepare better.”
If one is to believe him, the preparation has to be according to the objective, whether it is to reach world cup, or play One Day International. So far our preparation has been to think of the tournament that is approaching immediately. If you want to look back, it is difficult to find another generation of cricketers. So if one is to take this generation as the golden generation, the preparation has to be in accordance. If Nepal plays World Cup or gets ODI status, the international financial support that comes in, has to be spent in preparing next generation of cricketers. For that plan is needed.
The reason behind success stories of Ireland and Scotland in reaching world cup is believed to be exposure to the players. Due to association with English counties, players from Ireland and Scotland get to play there easily. Now, players from The Netherlands, Namibia and even Hong Kong have stepped in English counties. It’s not that there has been no possibility for Nepali players. During ACC Trophy 2006, Hong Kong Coach Aftab Alam had said Binod Das was good enough to play in counties. Two years after that, when MCC team came to Nepal, the team officials were charmed by Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla and Prithu Baskota. But a bridge to connect Nepalis to English Cricket was never built.
A year and a half ago, when Pubudu Dassanayake came to Nepal cricket, there was a new energy. He said, there was no dearth of talent, but match exposure part was weak. He showed Shakti Gauchan the path to trials at Rajsthan Royals. Paras went to play club cricket in Canada. Anil Mandal, Gyanendra and Sharad Vesawkar went to special batting practice in India. Fast bowlers Amrit Bhattarai and Chandra Sawad got to play in Sri Lanka’s U-23 league. Prithu and Pradip Airee went to play club cricket in India. All these were due to initiation taken by Dassanayake. The players got some match exposure. The results are there to be seen. Nepal won Division 4, ACC Trophy Elite and crossed the Bermuda Triangle too.
Nepal is in the final race of selection for both World T20 and World Cup. Nepali team has seen more possibility in T20. Last time Nepal played World T20 qualifiers, it finished 7th, out of 16 teams, after being ranked 16th before the tournament began. This time, chances are more since 6 teams out of qualifiers will play in World T20.
One Day status is not easy, although Namibia has proven that nothing is impossible, through the success it generated 12 years ago. But for that, Namibia’s preparation was special. To play in world cup, preparation has to be special. Namibia had stayed in England for a long time to prepare.
Cricket is as good as religion in South Asia. Nepal is yet to gain from being close to countries who consider it religion, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We are still in the habit of selecting teams on the basis of one tournament a year.
Dassanayake has already said that preparation has to start 6 months prior to playing in World Cup qualifiers. In between, Nepal will also play World T20 qualifiers. If CAN doesn’t prepare plans according to coach’s plans, Nepal will not only fail to reach the goal, but also lose the status it has. Then, there would be no mania, when the team comes back home. Those who want to improve their ‘profile’ by being associated with the team, would not be seen anywhere.
Ed: This write-up appeared in Nepali national Daily – Nagarik