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Defeating All Odds, Nepal Start Journey in ODI Cricket 

A dysfunctional cricket board is just one of the many odds that the Nepal cricket team have faced.

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Cricket
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The Nepalese cricket team on Friday, 16 March gained ODI status after defeating Papua New Guinea by six wickets in the World Cup Qualifier play-off in Harare. What makes Nepal’s feat even more impressive is that they’ve managed to reach here despite all odds, a dysfunctional cricket board being just one of them.

A dysfunctional cricket board is just one of the many odds that the Nepal cricket team have faced.
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Cricket Administration

At present, Nepal is without a cricket association officially – the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) has been suspended by the ICC because of 'government interference in its functioning'. Under an interim arrangement, the national teams are directly managed by the ICC, while attempts are on to adopt a new constitution.

Technically, CAN reports to the Nepal Sports Council, an arm of the Ministry of Sports. Even this is a mess, considering regular political instability in the country which has resulted in frequent changes of government.

Facilities/Infrastructure

Cricket infrastructure in Nepal is practically non-existent. Nepal has one cricket facility – the Tribhuvan University (TU) ground – which lacks proper sight-screens, rollers or covers.

The dressing rooms are basic and spectators sit on grass mounds around the boundary, except for a small section next to the pavilion which has cemented stands.

A dysfunctional cricket board is just one of the many odds that the Nepal cricket team have faced.
File photo of the Tribhuvan University (TU) ground in Kirtipur, Nepal.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Cricket Structure

The national championship has not been held for a few years as regular cricket has come to a halt with CAN's suspension. Even the under-19 team's preparation for the Asia Cup last year consisted of a short camp in Kathmandu and three practice matches in Bangladesh. It has a coach is Binod Das, an ex-Nepal cricketer, but the team lacks a proper trainer.

Player Facilities

Most players are on their own, without any financial security or support. The ICC pays graded monthly stipends/salaries to 30 players, ranging from $350 in grade A to a meagre $80 in grade D, which incidentally is less than 50 percent of the daily match fee of a Ranji cricketer! Only two under-19 players that were part of the team, which defeated India in the 2017 Asia Cup, are contracted with the ICC.

Considering this context, it’s a miracle cricket has grown in popularity to become the preferred sport, and Nepal today is not just a football territory anymore. Nepal’s high point in Cricket was in 2014, when they qualified for the ICC T20 World Cup in Bangladesh, clinching their spot in the main draw with a dramatic last ball win over Hong Kong.

At that time, Nepal and Afghanistan were making big strides, but due to Nepal’s internal issues, they fell back while Afghanistan managed to achieve Test status.

A dysfunctional cricket board is just one of the many odds that the Nepal cricket team have faced.
Nepal’s hopes of resurgence are pinned on its captain Paras Khadka
(Photo: ICC)
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Nepal's hopes of resurgence are pinned on its captain Paras Khadka – a young, talented, Virat Kohli-like rock star figure, who had represented Nepal in three under-19 World Cups (2004, 2006 and 2008). and has led Nepal’s senior team since 2009. Paras is much respected for his leadership qualities and is Nepal's number 1 sporting hero and youth role model.

Over the years, Nepal cricket's unique strength is that it is fuelled by local talent. All players and the coach Jagat Tamata are of Nepali origin, unlike other countries (Canada, Hong Kong, UAE), which have substantial representation of expats, especially from the subcontinent .

Hopefully, ODI status will take Nepal cricket forward by establishing a stronger connect with fans.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior journalist, former GM of the BCCI and Manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He can be reached at @AmritMathur1)

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