Nepali team headed Namibia with an uphill task of earning an outright win in an International Cricket Council (ICC) Intercontinental Cup playoff match that decides the eighth and the final team for the top competition for the non-test playing countries.
Nepali cricket is on the high winning the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup Plate Championship a month ago. But the senior side still has a few things to prove. This is the best and the only opportunity to break into the global cricketing circuit although its an arduous task.
If the seniors, especially the batsmen, can emulate half of the achievements of the U-19 team Nepal could achieve the unlikely.
“This is a very important opportunity for us as we could, although its difficult, enter the global cricketing circuit winning the four-day match,” said coach Roy Dias for whom the Namibia match holds greater significance than the U-19 triumph.
“However it is going to be a real tough task because this is the first time boys will be playing a four-day match,” he added.
The match simply could shape Nepal’s cricketing future as the winner will play at least three ICC Intercontinental Cup matches in the first year and then seven in the next two years. The top eight non-Test playing nations will be divided into two groups of four each and play each other inside the group for the first year. In the second year, all the eight members play against each other.
The win also means a very busy couple of years for the senior side and international exposure beyond the Asian-level. For that an outright win against the African country is a must for Nepal while a draw would be enough for Namibia to qualify.
For coach Dias, it would be a surprise if Nepal can notch up a win. “We are playing in new conditions while for Namibians its home conditions. Moreover, we don’t have much idea about the type of cricket Namibia plays,” said Dias. Nepal has played Namibia once and lost in the ICC Trophy in Canada five years ago.
Dias expected seamer friendly wickets with some bounce in Namibia. In that case Dias is in the mood of fielding four seamers along with a frontline spinner.
“We will decide the eleven after looking at the conditions,” said Dias who only has 13 players to choose from this time. Aamir Akhtar is an able replacement for all-rounder Paras Khadka according to skipper Binod Das. On Dias’s initiative Aamir was summoned for Namibia tour from England where he plays professional cricket.
Basanta Regmi, who was rewarded with a place in the senior side for his splendid performance in the U-19 World Cup, would probably fill in the third spinner’s role in the side behind Raj Kumar Pradhan and Raju Basnet.
Nepali pace attack has variety with two right arm quickies in Dhirendra Chand and the skipper Binod Das. Aamir and Mehboob Alam, the left armers, will have to share the fast bowling duty among them.
Batting still remains the weakest link in the senior side with Kanishka Chaugai, the inform U-19 skipper, Paresh Lohani along with Sharad Vesawkar as the trio.
Vice captain Shakti Gauchan who took a Dhirendra Chand bouncer in his eyes while practicing, could be still conscious and that is one of the concerns for Dias.
Mehboob, Binod, Shakti and Aamir will play the all-rounder role in the team that has a golden opportunity to make a mark in the international arena against the waves created by the juniors.
BY DEVENDRA SUBEDI (PHOTO: DURGA DULAL)