RSS COMMENTARY: Nepal joins with pride the rank of ODI playing nations
KATHMANDU, 19 March: The Cricket Association of Nepal, the official body set up to oversee the development and management of the sport of cricket in Nepal remains suspended since April 2016 by the International Cricket Council. The ICC board suspended the membership of CAN due to unwarranted government intervention in the CAN. The ICC decided that the suspension would stay in place until "CAN becomes free of government interference and is properly structured to begin exploiting the tremendous cricket talent and opportunities that exist in Nepal."
The suspension meant that CAN would not be receiving any funding from the ICC. However, recognizing the cricketing potentials of Nepal, the ICC decided to allow Nepal national teams to continue to feature in ICC events.
Nepal does not have a single cricket stadium of international standard with the only one to boast off is the Tribhuvan University cricket ground used for international level matches. The ongoing construction of the Cricket stadium in Mulpani, in the outskirts of the capital remains delayed for various reasons.
As a result, Nepal does not have any regular national league for the game of cricket. And hence, players do not have a platform to practice regularly and there is no structured means for new players to emerge. Besides a few private-led initiative including the Dhangadi Premier League, there is not much as far as cricketing is concerned in the country.
Given this backdrop, one could not expect the national team to perform well forget returning home with laurels. However, the Nepali national cricket team has not only performed well but also created history. Nepal is now for the first time in history a One-day International (ODI) cricket playing nation.
Nepal achieved the feat by defeating Papua New Guinea in the World Cup Qualifiers play-off match held at the Old Hararians Spoirts Club of Zimbabwe on March 15. Though Nepal finished eighth among ten teams competing for a spot in the 2018 World Cup, the tournament proved successful for Nepal as crucial win against Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea gained Nepal the elusive ODI status. Nepal had been granted the associates status 12 years ago, in 1996.
Inspirational capital Paras Khadka, who led from the front scoring crucial knocks, expressed his joy over twitter and thanked everyone for being part of Nepal's incredible journey. "Thank you everyone for the support..Just been years and years of toil, persistence, sacrifices, commitment and hardwork..Finally WE BECOME An ODI nation", Khadka tweeted.
Nepal also received congratulatory messages from all around world from cricketing greats like Michael Clarke of Australia, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul Haq of Pakistan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India. It speaks volume about the feat achieved by a noble cricketing nation.
However, this ODI status will remain in effect for the next four years only. Prior to this Nepal had also achieved Twenty20 International status in June 2014, which continued until the T20 World Cup qualifiers in 2015. Getting an ODI status from the ICC means many opportunities will come knocking the door of Nepali cricket including opportunities to play with and host other ODI playing nations.
But then Nepal has to first start by winning back the trust of ICC and the government has a significant role to play in this regard. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli released a statement congratulating the National Cricket Team for the maiden feat but the national cricketers will be looking towards him for some significant support including some policy measures that promotes and supports the sport of cricket in the country.
Thanks to political squabbling and financial as well as management irregularities, the county is even not having a national football league. The national football governing body, or ANFA is also mired in internal bickering and irregularities, depriving the country of a national league which is a must for developing the game of football in the country.
It’s the same situation with CAN, which remains suspended, and hence there is no official body that could oversee Nepal's progress during this crucial four years. Lack of physical infrastructure is another problem that has plagued the field of cricket in Nepal. The new structure of provincial as well as local level governments should be utilized to focus on the development of sports from the grassroots level and harness local talents.
Riding on the success of the present team, the government, most notably the Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to come up with a long-term vision supported by a strategy for the next four years to come. As more support would be coming from the International Cricket Council, Nepal needs to ready itself to utilize the support and build a foundation for the country to become a regular ODI playing nation.
Nepal bowler Sandeep Lamichhane, who was selected to play in the coming edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League, has already proved the immense potential that the country has as far as cricket is concerned. But only an institutional foundation for the development of the sport will ensure sustainability in the development of talented cricketers and Nepal as a team will be able to join its South Asian neighbours like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to become a regular team playing not only ODIs but also Twenty20 and Test cricket.