Coming of Age

Bangladesh ‘almost’ became the Asian Champions in Cricket. One stroke and they could have been the winners of the Asia Cup. Despite loss in the title match, Bangladesh cricket now stands a few inches taller than it was, just before the championship arrived.

Bangladesh may not have won the title, but this championship showed that this team, always considered as the ‘also ran’, has finally evolved into a formidable team that is capable of defeating bigger and supposedly stronger teams.

While the Asian Test nations were gunning for Asian glory, the real minnows of cricket – the associate nations – were playing ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers, for the two spots of Twenty20 World Cup, which will be played in September this year. Nepal was among the nations trying to capture those two spots. Just that the team could not travel that far.

However, if you were observing pre-tournament preparation closely, you could have heard murmurs of the cricketers saying preparation had been done with one idea – that Nepal was not going to qualify for the World Twently20. Even captain Paras Khadka had expressed disappointments about the preparations. There could be some logic in thinking that we would not qualify. After all, we were the lowest ranked team in the championship. Every other team was considered better than us.

But then we played for the 7th spot. From 16th to 7 is a climb worth celebrating. Not many teams manage it in one championship. We were able to beat at least two teams – in Bermuda and Kenya – that had World Cup experience. Those two wins alone should be considered a slap for the administrators who made this team play on a matting wicket and travel for weeks, just prior to the biggest ever championship Nepal had to play in. For that Nepali cricket team deserves a pat on the back. For, they were able to restore pride in our cricket.

Nepali cricket team may not have become world beaters in a fortnight, but like Bangladesh, this team showed that it can come of age, when right amount of energy is put into it. Like Bangladesh, the cricket talent in this country is not questionable. Like Bangladesh, we also have been tagged minnows. But unlike Bangladesh, we see that the cricket administrators here do not show enough faith in their team, in their players.

For, there have been times when experts called for revoking Bangladesh’s Test status. But that hardly deterred the administrators there. In recent times, they started Bangladesh Premier League – in line with Indian Premier League – where its own players could rub shoulders with international players and gain valuable match experience. The result is for everyone to see. It is faith that has turned around Bangladesh cricket, and there is no reason to believe such can happen in Nepal.

Last time when Nepal was as close qualifying for Cricket World Cup was in 2001, when it was playing ICC Trophy. Then experts said that a huge gap existed between the associate nations and teams with ODI status. Before that tournament began, Namibia – an ICC associate member since 1992 – went on a tour to England, as a preparation. The 5-6 week long preparation tour made them strong enough to become the finalists and eventually they played in World Cup 2003.

This goes on to show that, with proper preparation, things once considered ‘unachievable’ can be achieved. The administrators have responsibility to think beyond what is already at hand.

The performance of Nepali side at ICC World Twenty20 should be taken as a platform. It is for the management to think if the team could perform this much with limited preparation, what they could achieve with proper plans in place. A proper calendar needs to be made, making sure the cricketers are engaged in the game throughout the year. If we can’t send national side, we can send our regional sides to play in local tournaments across the border. It should be noted that Sri Lankan side used to play in local tournaments held in Tamilnadu of India before they achieved Test status. We know, they’re one of the top teams in the world now.

It is time, our cricket comes of age. Bangladesh has given us enough reasons to think why we should dream bigger.

(PS: The write-up appeared in YoursTruly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 24th March,2012)

Photo: Taken by Yours Truly

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