What is the first question that comes to your mind if you hear of a Nepali (or any other) player playing for a foreign club?
How much is he or she getting? Naturally yes. Sport is a professional arena and you sell your skills for a price.
Nepali fast bowlers Amrit Bhattarai and Chandra Saud were selected by Sri Lanka Port Authority Cricket Club to play in the U-23 League, organized by Sri Lanka Cricket Board. There, both Bhattarai and Saud will play one 3-Day match and one 1-Day match every week, for 3 months. But, according to the contract, both players have to bear their own expenses, including ticket to Sri Lanka and food.
Here, we can’t complain that they are playing for free. Given that they play precious little when there is no camp, Nepali cricketers need some ways to get exposure. In fact, we have to consider it a privilege that the pace duo have been called during the season cricketers only watch grass being watered by monsoon on cricket pitch. Add to that the quality of competition in Sri Lanka, you would think that these boys are actually lucky.
For that, Nepal cricket coach Pubudu Dassanayake has to be congratulated, and thanked. For it was his relation with the Club’s coach Sajith Fernando that made it possible for Bhattarai and Saud get an entry. As Dassanayake always says, “A national cricketer should not stay idle for more than a month”, he has made sure that these two – fastest of Nepali bowlers – stay fit and in rhythm.
Good job. But one problem remains: How do the players take care of their expenses?
Ever since Denis Compton – that genius who played both cricket and football for England with ease and grace – became a Brylcreem boy, cricket was no longer the same. Once Compton endorsed the brand, it started the era of sponsorships for cricketers by various brands. This was the starting point for cricketers making substantial living by exploiting their sporting reputation through advertisements and endorsements. That was in 1940s.
That was Britain and not Nepal. Agreed… We probably don’t have enough brands that can provide sponsorships. Agreed… But the way Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) gave these players a cold shoulder? That is frustrating. An unnamed source within CAN said, “If we pay for their expenses, there would be 15-16 other players that will demand money. How can we play for all?”
Shameful, if you see the amount of publicity that CAN got, when it started to give monthly stipend to cricketers under contract. And this is not the first time CAN has shown this kind of attitude.
In 2009, when touring MCC team was to play against Nepali team here, Raj Kumar Pradhan and Mehboob Alam could not play the match, despite being in the national team. The reason: CAN asked these players to come to Kathmandu at their own expense. These players are not Kathmandu residents. Any person with decent cricket knowledge knows what MCC is. Even the MCC manager had said then that a few Nepali cricketers had the ability to play in English counties. However, nobody followed it up further.
Now there is window of opportunity for cricketers, by virtue of Nepali performance at ICC World T20 qualifiers, Shakti Gauchan’s short stint with Rajasthan Royals and Paras Khadka playing professionally in Canada. It should be grabbed, with all the might we have. CAN officials, ideally, should have been running from pillar to post to increase its sponsorship earnings to fund the cricketers’ expense. But, set of ideals don’t seem to run Nepali cricket.
In such a condition, the Nepali cricket fans – a loose network on facebook – rallied around, collected and managed to get around USD 500 and gave these players. There was a former Kathmandu cricketer Keshav Yadav, who donated additional USD 300. Crazy stuff? Love for the game? More…
Nowhere in the world we’d see fans doing as much so that their cricketers get proper exposure. Across the world, fans are witnesses, watching from the boundary. Fans are a result of players’ success. Here, they are helping the players to become successful. For that, the fans deserve applause from cricketers.
It is about time CAN learns compassion from the fans.
(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 9th June, 2012)