Giant Killers: Time to Step Up

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A lot has happened in cricket since Nepal pipped South Africa to enter the Super League at the U-19 World Cup, in their first appearance at the event, in 2000. This was the first, and so far only, incident of an associate member of ICC entering the Super League stage at the Youth World Cup.

It’s a different issue that South Africa were one of the favourites and were unlucky to be eliminated after three no-results gave them just three points. Nepal, with four points due to one no-result against South Africa and a win over Kenya, went through to the Super League. After all, Nepali players did not create the format of the championship and did not choose their opponents either.

Nepal U-19 Cricket Team, after winning the Plate Final at ICC U19 World Cup 2006

Nepal returns to the U19 World Cup again, having missed out on the 2010 event. To qualify, Nepal finished second behind Scotland and one place ahead of Ireland in the 10-team ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2011, played in Ireland.

And when you come back after a break of four years, it’s only natural to reflect upon past glory.  The players from the U-19 team would probably do that, absorbing how much Nepal is known in world cricketing circle.

It was 10 years ago, when Martin Snedden, former New Zealand international and tournament director of U-19 World Cup 2002, asked then Nepal coach Roy Dias, “Roy, what are you doing in Nepal?”, oblivious to the fact that the country had cricket grounds and some cricket history. Till then, New Zealand had only one connection to Nepal and that was Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to successfully climb Mount Everest. Certainly, a host to the highest peak in the world would not have enough space and flat land for cricket, they believed.

It was the same year, the same event, where Nepal announced itself, beating the likes of Pakistan. The team which had Salman Butt and Umar Gul, no nonsense names in cricket. And then Nepal was nicknamed the giant killers. To the extent that South African coach Ray Jennings reportedly said that his team was yet to get over the jinx of Nepal. South Africa has finished as runner-ups twice, but is yet to win the U-19 World Cup (or any major ICC championship, for that matter).

The more things change, the more they remain same.

Yours truly happened to meet a couple of cricketers (name withheld) who played that match, where Nepal thumped Pakistan. A decade later, they’re hardly playing cricketer. No, it’s not the want that’s diminished. It is the lack of opportunities. They complain, “Even Inter-college cricket is not happening.”

When asked about their future plans, they talk about opening a restaurant, preferably a joint-venture with other few cricketers. They rue the fact that Nepal Police Club took them, but hasn’t really formed a team which would play cricket (after winning T20 National Championships and finishing second in One-Day championship).

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The players, once called the giant killers, are clueless about what to do next. That’s the difficult thing about being giant killers. You cannot always remain that. Either you graduate, winning more matches and climbing the next level: of being consistent performers, or you fade out, into oblivion.

It was 2006 edition of the championship when our U-19 team achieved its best result, landing with silverware, winning the plate final, after a thrilling victory against New Zealand and having beaten South Africa as well. But the captain then, Kanishka Chaugain, is in US, and not in Nepali cricket set up anymore. While the players at the same championship, Cheteswar Pujara and Rohit Sharma (both India) are being touted as future of Indian cricket.

It would be interesting to see how many players the championship throws up this time. But one thing is for certain, we cannot merely remain giant killers anymore. We have to step up. Hopefully Cricket Association of Nepal is listening to the plight of cricketers.

PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column at The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 12th August, 2012.

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