Past couple of weeks have been very exciting for young cricketers of Nepal and the excitement is likely to continue. Imagine meeting one of the best leaders of the game just before you’re readying yourself for a major tournament. It’s like going to your class science test after a lecture from Stephen Hawking.
Yes, meeting Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Indian cricket captain, just before the U-19 Asia Cup might do more than good to the youngsters, who start the tournament playing against India – arguably the strongest side in the competition. After all, this man is known to have inspired Indian team to World Cup title.
Dhoni’s arrival and his influence on Nepali cricketers is likely to fill headlines in coming days. He is to meet the local cricketers and have a pep talk with them.
But have you considered this: Had our cricket calendar got right, Dhoni would have been able to witness Nepali cricket in action. For, he would have arrived in the midst of National cricket championship. Sadly, it was shelved. Few wrote about it, fewer discussed it.
Imagine a national championship being shelved. Does it hurt? Or in a state of confusion, it has become palatable? An everyday affair… Have our expectations lowered so much already? It should be remembered that the U-16 nationals coincided with SLC exams – the exam touted as the Iron Gate and where most 16 year olds and thereabouts are rigorously busy with books and not bats. The timing hardly worried many.
One can understand that the Cricket Association runs under political leadership. But there are enough names in the association team who have been involved in the game for long time. One would have expected some sense prevailing and these former cricketers be worried about where the next team would come from. ICC World Cricket League Division 4 matches might be played in September, and in absence of nationals, team selection is definitely going to be affected. It has been norm, for long long time now, that the nationals are also taken as selection tournament for the team.
Nationals have always been the stage for cricketers to perform, to shine, to announce themselves. In its absence, there is every likelihood that the national team would be unchanged. That also means that the players who are currently in the team would be unchallenged. Lack of challenge also means that the players might take their place for granted and become casual in their approach. And the team that impressed everyone during World T20 qualifiers could lose momentum.
Interestingly, there is no calendar made public for this year (not that calendar making was a ritual known to public in Cricket Association of Nepal), and hence cricket officials can even deny canceling the championship. But sane look at climatic conditions and a bit of history will tell you championship is not possible anymore. Monsoon and wet field will not allow it before Dashain festival, and following that everyone will be busy in preparation for ACC Trophy to be played in UAE (First week of October). So when is the time for national championship?
In CAN’s defence, it can be said that the frequent general strikes in various parts of the country did not help organizing the tournament. Also the expected constitution on 27th of May had a sense of confusion all around. And along with that there was every chance that CAN would have to disturb the camp set for U-19 team (that is to play U-19 Asia Cup – in July – and U-19 World Cup – in August).
But then, Nationals is not only a stage where youngsters emerge. It is also a place to keep the players – who are not a part of the team – engaged in the sport. We already have a lot of 30-year-olds who have stopped playing cricket, after a decade of experience at domestic circuit. It could also be an opportunity to make use of that experience.
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s sports column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 16 June, 2012)