I cannot imagine Nepal Cricket team without Paras Khadka, the CaptainTalisman.
I know he cannot play for ever and will retire sooner or later. Shakti Gauchan, the longest serving custodian for Nepal, retired a couple of months ago after playing a domestic franchise league. Sharad Veswakar, the finisher, has been out of the team for quite some time now. Basant Regmi, the dependable spin legend, is still in the team but the recent success of Sandeep Lamichhane has shifted the focus. Gyanendra Malla, Basant Bhandari and Sagar Pun, who are not playing well lately were the senior team regulars for number of years.
Fans are demanding Gyanendra Malla to pave the way for youngsters because of his series of poor batting performances for over a year. The rise of Karan KC, Sompal Kami, Sandeep Lamichhane, Lalit Rajbanshi, Sundeep Jora, and Avinash Bohora has proved that fans can finally expect a team of fearless youngsters. A bright future ahead for Nepal cricket.
New kids on the block
Year 2017/2018 saw the rise of youngsters. Karan KC and Sandeep Lamichhane helped Nepal to win the match against Canada with a last wicket partnership of 50 runs during World Cricket Championship League tournament in Namibia. Sandeep Lamichhane became the highest wicket taker of the tournament. Airee brothers, Paras Khadka and Lalit Rajbanshi were instrumental in helping Nepal to win the tournament. The same group of youngsters have been performing regularly for more than a year now.
For the first time, these youngsters led by Paras managed to receive the ODI status, won the maiden ODI match against the Netherlands and won the ODI series against the UAE. The team has benefitted from youngsters like Sandeep and Rohit.
Nepal has always enjoyed passionate cricket fan following. In Nepal, the passion and love for the game is helping to attract youngsters to playing the game. Having a large pool of cricket players playing the game gives more options to selectors. Rise of Sandeep and the global superstardom he brought to Nepal gave youngsters the dream they can nurture. They can now hope to emulate the success of Sandeep. They can dream to play the global franchise cricket leagues. A career path and security in cricket for players is unheard of for an associate country like Nepal. Thanks to Sandeep for showing you can make a living by playing cricket. Kudos to the T20 cricket tournaments in providing a platform to create that opportunity. A youngster from Nepal can now dream to play the IPL with global superstars if they have the required skill and learning temperament.
Performance in Franchise Leagues
Another factor that is helping Nepal cricket to enjoy the influx of cricketers are the T20 franchise leagues. Three major franchise leagues are being organized regularly in Nepal. Dhangadhi, Everest and Pokhara Premier leagues provide platform for local players to showcase their talent. Local players can shine and announce their arrival to the national scene by performing in these tournaments. Avinash Bohora, Sunil Dhamala, Bhim Sarki, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Sundeep Jora, Pawan Sarraf, Rashid Khan and many other youngsters have came through the ranks. They have been knocking on the door for national selection for quite some time now.
The Rising Number of Youngsters
In the earlier years, it was difficult for Nepal team to have a talented substitute if the main players were injured or not available. The bench strength and availability of reserve players has improved a lot in recent years. Paras in a recent interview noted how tough it is for a player to get selected for the national team these days. We now have good bowling and batting options and youngsters are competing with each other vying for the same position. It is better for Nepal cricket on the long run to have players who are capable to replace the players in the senior national team. The healthy competition will help the players to perform better.
Performance in UAE series
The second match of the T20 series was an example where the team won because of the youngsters. Paras Khadka and Gyanendra Malla were out early in the innings chasing the paltry total of 107. Dipendra Airee then played a match-winning innings of 47 not-out. He made a crucial partnership of 50 runs with another youngster Pawan after Nepal was stuttering at 46 for the loss of 5 wickets.
Two youngsters managed to guide Nepal home to level the series 1-1. While bowling, Sompal and Sandeep took two wickets each to showcase the growing impact of youngsters . The most impressive bowler of the match was Avinash Bohra, the debutante for Nepal team who claimed three wickets.
Sundeep Jora became the youngest players ever to score a T20 half century. Rohit Kumar Paudel became the youngest batsman ever to score a ODI half century beating the record maintained by Shahid Afridi. Records are tumbling. Youngsters are marching forward and taking the responsibility.
Win or loss, Nepal will be happy to play
Nepal is playing a series decider on Sunday February 2. With the confidence youngsters are showing at the moment, it will probably be a win for Nepal. As a fan, I am not much worried even if it's a loss. The players are riding high and that's what is important for Nepal as a cricket team. I wrote an article a month ago explaining what lies ahead for Nepal cricket. We require more games and more exposure. This series shows what exposure can do to the youngsters.
With the games in display, future of Nepal cricket is in safe hand.