The national cricket team is embarking on a tour to India, as a preparation for the ICC World T20 Qualifiers, which is to be held in the UAE in third week of March. The 18-member preliminary squad is to go to Mumbai to play 5-6 T20 matches and one 50-over match, with the local teams.
This is not the first preparation tour for Nepal and neither shall it be the last. But this time around, the team will be traveling without former skipper Binod Das, who has been dropped from the team.
There would be few people to challenge this decision, but it should be noted that he has been dropped only for the T20 matches. Many would remember his over against Afghanistan in recently held ACC T20 Cup. As he ran in to bowl 4th over, Nepal was defending 68 runs, he looked out of sorts, having a catch dropped in his previous over. He was promptly belted all around the park, 21 runs were conceded in the over and match was as good as over for Nepal. Binod cut a lonely figure in the ground, not much activity going around him. Maybe that was the moment; many had concluded it was all over for him, so there is not much of a surprise in him being dropped. After all, you cannot have a strike bowler who bowls at less than 70 miles per hour.
The good thing is, this was the first time that a player was told by the coach and the selector about being dropped from the team, unlike earlier, where players came to know of them being dropped through newspapers. Apparently he was told that team needed to try out new combinations and was looking for fresher faces.
“I was obviously disappointed, but I will keep improving myself in all formats of the game,” Binod says, “I am in fact fitter than earlier.” His fellow players will tell you, Binod was in fact the pick of the bowlers during the camp held. He took 7 wickets in 4 practice matches and had at least one catch dropped off his bowling in every one of them.
That is what we should expect from a player that has taken 82 wickets in 62 One Dayers. His record at U-19 level has also been impressive. He has been even more potent in the longer version – the 3-dayers – with 67 scalps in 14 matches. Many would remember his 6 for 29, when Nepal defeated UAE in 2005-6. The numbers force you into believing he is good at what he does.
But, of late, Binod has been a story of diminishing returns and maybe not as potent a force that he was a few years ago. But his story should be an inspiration to many other budding cricketers of the country. Coming from a modest family from Kalaiya, with limited means and rising to the ranks becoming a mainstay of national cricket team for over a decade. He is the first Nepali cricketer to have played more than 100 international games (in all formats of cricket). He is also a success story for Cricket Association of Nepal too, coming from age-group teams and taking the helm of a national team. He played in U-17, U-19 and the senior side, and this alone should tell the cricket authorities why feeder system of players in the form of age-group tournaments is a must, if you want a good national side.
The Binod story may not yet be over, for he feels that he can still be a part of the team, something that Nepal coach Pubudu Dassanayake also echoes. “He’s still a part of plan in the longer version,” he says.
Despite his loss of form and injury in recent times, one should hail him for his contribution to Nepal cricket. Yours truly would always remember 2000, when Binod was batting as a tailender against Hong Kong – the match we lost with a good margin – and Rameez Raja, former Pakistan Test player was commentating on TV. Watching Binod bat, Raja said, “I’ve never seen a No 10 batsman, playing with such good stance and straight bat.”
For me, that shall remain Binod’s contribution, being the first person who got us noticed in World Cricket.
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 28th January, 2012)